Sunday, April 5, 2015

Some Women Fantasize about Prince Charming...

... I dream of getting new flooring.

When I was a teen, I fantasized and wrote about exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going... anywhere off-planet.

When I was at university, the theme was saving the world and having hot sex with a variety of partners who thought the sun rose and set on me.

When I wrote Under a Texas Star, I was escaping my hospital room and nosy roommate.

Deadly Legacy gave me a way of dealing with my mother's death.

When I started A Bodyguard to Remember, what I most wanted was new flooring and fresh paint.

Our carpeting was dirt brown, indoor/outdoor stuff that was at least twenty years old. The previous occupants were smokers, drinkers and kept rabbits and cats, neither of which were particularly well housebroken.

The co-op cleaned the carpets and painted, of course, but some smells are hard to eliminate.

In fairness, we added to the cocktail. With two small children, you can expect spills. I'm not perfect either, especially when distracted while holding a full cup of coffee. 

The worst happened after my father's stroke. We took care of him at home for a few years. Although he had quit smoking years ago, his sense of smell never entirely bounced back. He really didn't know what we were talking about when we told him he couldn't dry his Depends in front of the fan. Nor could he tell when his portable urinal ranneth over. 

Around the same time, our family cat was reaching twenty years of age, which is almost 200 in cat years. We had an incontinent cat added to the mix. Georgette (named for Georgette Heyer) had been with my sister and I (going back and forth when our allergies demanded) through four pregnancies (two each). She was my daughter's best friend. There was no way that we weren't going to keep that cat as long as we could make her comfortable.

But the carpeting and our sinuses suffered. No amount of carpet cleaning or deodorizers completely removed the stains or smell. So, when I was standing at the corner, waiting to cross the kids at lunch (I'm a crossing guard too) I started thinking about ways I could speed up the replacement of our flooring. I came up with a dead body in the living room.

Being a writer, I had to work out who the body was, how he got there and what happened next. Since I hadn't totally given up on the fantasy of being desired by multiple men or saving the universe, a little bit of that crept in too... And the first Men in Uniform book was born.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Code Name: Gypsy Moth - the annotated listing

On sale now!
($3.77 in Canada... damned rate of exchange!)

An Imajin Qwickies™ Sci-fi/Romantic Suspense Novella with a dose of Campbell Humor
(Campbell humor is nothing to be scoffed at... laughed at, but not scoffed.)

It isn't easy running your own bar in the final frontier...especially when you’re hiding a secret.
(If it was easy, Melodie wouldn't be writing about it.)

Nell Romana loves two things: running The Blue Angel Bar, and Dalamar, a notorious modern-day knight for hire. Too bad he doesn't know she is actually a spy working undercover for the Federation.
(Doesn't know yet... will he? You'll just have to read to find out.)
The bar is a magnet for all sorts of thirsty frontier types, and some of them don’t have civilized manners. That’s no problem for Dalamar, who is built like a warlord and keeps everyone in line. But when he is called away on a routine job, Nell uncovers a rebel plot to overthrow the Federation. Her cover blown, she has to act fast and alone—and more than their love is put to the test.
(Like I said, if it was easy, Melodie wouldn't be writing about it.)
If you're read the Land's End Trilogy, you know Melodie Campbell throws everything but the kitchen sink at her heroine and that's only left out because they don't have indoor plumbing.

If you've read the award-winning Goddaughter series, you know that Melodie knows her way around comic capers.

Now she's gone into space. The galaxy will never be the same again.

Follow Melodie Campbell on Amazon and don't miss a book!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Love Coffee, I Love Tea

“Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.”
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand 1754-1838

I wasn't always a coffee drinker. For the first twenty-two years of my life I was all about tea... I don't actually remember when I was too young to drink tea. For all I know, my baby bottle was filled with milky tea.

I didn't like coffee at all back then.

I blame my parents. They drank instant. Seriously? Who would forsake tea for instant coffee? On special occasions my mother would perk coffee. By that point in the evening her guests had so much food and drink they didn't notice how bad it was. Or maybe they were too polite.

I'm not being mean. Mum would have been the first to admit she did not have the knack of brewing coffee. She was English after all. Most of the time she drank tea and her tea was excellent.
"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me."
C. S. Lewis
In my senior years at high school (in Ontario we effectively had two senior years when I was growing up: grades 12 and 13) I used to have a tea locker. It was outside the chemistry classrooms. I kept a travel kettle, tea, sugar, powdered milk and two or three mugs. (I didn't take milk or sugar in my tea by then, but I was a very good host.) At lunchtime, I do a brew-up in the lab. Our chemistry teachers not only allowed it, one had his own tea beaker.

When I went to university, the tea was terrible. Sure, I could bring my own, but they charged the same for a cup of hot water as a cup of coffee. Worse, tea didn't keep you awake when you had three papers to complete in twenty-four hours. That's what drove me to coffee. Since I wasn't crazy about it, bad coffee didn't bother me.
“I don't really like coffee," she said, "but I don't really like it when my head hits my desk when I fall asleep either. ”
Brian Andreas
I'm not sure when the turning point came... maybe it was when I was hanging out at cafes writing longhand fan fiction when I was supposed to be writing essays... but I became a coffee drinker.

Back in my fan fic days, I preferred flavoured coffee. When I was Captain of the Guelph Star Trek Club I had my own "Captain's Blend". (Two parts Columbian dark roast to one part Dutch chocolate flavoured beans.) I started drinking straight dark roast about the same time I started writing mysteries. Coincidence? I think not.
“Coffee first. Schemes later.”
Leanna Renee Hieber
Now I am known as "She who must have coffee." But truth be known, when the world is falling apart around me, my first instinct is to go and put the kettle on.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Farewell Sir Terry - But Not Good Bye

I was introduced to Terry Pratchett via his Discworld novels in 1989. My parents, my sister and I were visiting London (my mother's hometown) -- the last trip the four of us would make as a nuclear family. My sister and I would wander around the west end while mum and dad had a nap in the afternoon. One day we discovered a "gentile blackhole"* aka a bookstore, and I discovered Wyrd Sisters.

That was the day I made a grievous tactical error. I only bought the first two Discworld books, The Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic. I should have bought every book up to and including the newly released Wyrd Sisters - or at least also bought Wyrd Sisters. The books were slow to be released in Canada back then, and it took three years before I finally read the book that first caught my attention.

I can't remember how long it took before I read Guards,  Guards, the book that started my favourite series within the series, and ongoing unrequited love affair with Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh Morpork. I read them all, from Guards, Guards to Snuff at least once annually.

Fast forward a dozen years later, my collection of Discworld novels was complete and up to date. I was (and am) the mother of two wonderful children and every night, for about a year, I had to read  Where's My Cow to my son Sam**... complete with appropriate voices. He was delighted that Sir Sam was reading the title story to Young Sam, his son.
Illustration from the book illustrated

When my kids got older, we started collecting the audio books so we could listen to the books in the car. Unseen Academicals is the family favourite. It's the only one we have that's not abridged. (That must be fixed because you shouldn't miss a word of a Pratchett novel.)

When my daughter hit her head and we spent about six hours in Emergency, I read Wee Free Men to her... with appropriate voices.  When we finally were called, a woman remarked that she was sorry she wouldn't hear the rest of the story and, by the way, what part of England was I from? (I'm born and bred Canadian.)

I have never met Sir Terry. I do not know his family. But he and his books have been part of my family for twenty-six years. I'm going to miss him, but he will live on through his books.

From Sir Terry Pratchett's BBC News Obituary

* “A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”
Terry Pratchett, Guards, Guards

**Sam is named jointly for Sam I Am from Green Eggs and Ham, Sam Vimes from the Discworld series, and the first cat I had as a child. But don't tell his father. He has other ideas.

Sam is the Ginger.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Four Years Old and Twenty Years in the Making

It started in Cambridge General Hospital. I was recovering from surgery. I shared the room with a lovely lady who was fighting cancer, an octogenarian with night terrors, and a woman who was more social than I could handle. I started writing the story of Marly Landers and Jase Strachan to give myself an escape.

The first draft was in very wobbly longhand. (Post surgery, remember?)

The second and third drafts were written on a Commodore Plus 4. When the Plus 4 died and I couldn't transfer the files to a dos system, I thought that was the end of that novel. Fortunately for Marly and Jase, I had friends who refused to let it die.

While I was creating the world of Carmedy and Garrett for the book that would become Deadly Legacy, they scanned, OCR'ed and consolidated El Paso Trail... which would become (one complete overhaul and two edits later) Under A Texas Star.

You should hear what I had to go through to have my daughter! ;) 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine Short from Kevin Thornton

by Kevin Thornton 

The bodies faced each other in the back of the alley. South-side Chicago. February. Cold.

Unless the Examiner came up with anything strange this looked very much like an old fashioned shootout, and Sergeant George Stone half expected the stiffs to be strapped with low slung holsters.

“Maybe this’ll be the end of it,” he said.

His partner, Detective Cronin, found a wallet. “Says his name's Antonio Vincenzo Gibaldi. He doesn’t look Italian, looks like regular black folk to me.”

“He’s not much Italian,” said Strong.

“You know this guy?” said Cronin.

“I know both of them. The other one is Adelard Cunin the fifth, and although both their mothers, grandmothers and likely several generations of womenfolk back were all hookers, Addie Five over here and Tony G over there come from gangster royalty. These two families have been killing each other off for nearly eighty-five years.”

“Are you serious? How come I never heard of them then?”

Strong thought for a moment. “Because they don’t look like their history. Tony G there, the far corpse, is about 27. He lived a lot longer than his Dad, Big Tony, who died at 15. They were the sixth and seventh generations to carry the name Gibaldi, either Vincenzo Antonio or the other way round. You can track them back to 1936, when Vincenzo Antonio Garibaldi the first was machine-gunned to death on the orders of Adelard Cunin the first.

Cronin still looked puzzled. “So these black guys had Italian great-umpty grandparents that nobody remembers, and every now and then a new generation tries to kill each other?”

“Exactly”, said Stone. “Except they are remembered. Back then it wasn’t always wise to use your real name.”

“Wait a minute”, said Cronin. He pulled out his smartphone and muttered as he typed. “Gibaldi, 1936, murder, Chicago.”  Then he stopped and muttered, “Holy crap.”

He turned to Stone and said, “Are you trying to tell me that this kid on the floor is the descendent of the ‘Antonio Vincenzo Gibaldi’ also known as Machine Gun Jack McGurn?”

“Got it in one kiddo,” said Stone.

“But he, he, he was killed by Bugs Moran?”

“Bugs ordered the killing, he didn’t do it himself. Bugs’ real name was Adelard Cunin, and he was French anyway, not Italian. He waited seven years to get his revenge, because Machine Gun Jack had been the hit leader of…”

“The Saint Valentine’s day massacre,” said Cronin, breathing slowly. He looked at the two blinged-out men in track pants, hoodies and Air Jordans, lying dead in their own blood. Then he tried to imagine them as their ancestors, with double-breasted suits, fedoras and tommy guns. He couldn’t. “It just doesn’t seem possible.”

“These two families have been murdering each other over a stupid Italian blood feud for nearly a century”, said Stone. “Capone ordered Machine Gun Jack to kill Bugsy Moran. Moran escaped and though he could never  get Capone he ordered McGurn killed and it took seven years. In the meantime, both of them fathered children by their black lovers and although Moran died in jail the stories did not. So they kept the feud going, the descendants. Until now. It’s all over. Today.”

“Why do you reckon that Sarge?”

“Because they both killed each other. They must have drawn and shot at the same time. It’s done now. The History of the Saint Valentine’s day massacres has finally run its course.” He turned to the coroner. “You can take them now. We’re done.”

Not ten yards away, quiet as a whisper, still in the derelict warehouse where he’d been hiding since he’d followed his Dad that morning, Little Tony G listened to everything the old cop had said. He hadn’t known what was going on and when he’d seen his Dad and the other guy face each other down like those badasses in that late night Clint Eastwood movie. He’d been scared, and then proud. Now he knew why it had happened.

He’d also recognized the other gunfighter, Addie Five, and he knew his son. They were both in sixth grade together.

But not for much longer. Wait till he caught up to Addie Six, pointed his Glock in his face, said “Happy Valentine’s day, sucker!”

And pulled the trigger.

A four time Arthur Ellis (Unhanged) Award Nominee, Kevin Thornton is a writer for the local Municipality, a columnist for the Fort McMurray Today and Your McMurray Magazine, a Director of the Crime Writers of Canada and a board Member of both the Northern Canada Collective Society for Writers and the Fort McMurray Public Library. He has never been known, willingly, to split an infinitve.

Further thoughts may be found at

A big thank you to all the participating authors. Please show your support by checking out their other Shorts and their books and stuff too, of course. ;-)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Short from Alison Bruce

Whine and Roses
By Alison Bruce

I shouldn’t hate Valentine’s Day, but I do.

It’s the busiest day of the year at Petal Power. Only Mother’s Day comes close to the money we  make, but is a distant second when it comes to volume of sales. It’s the roses of course. Unless their sweetheart has a particular love of tulips or daisies, roses are the go-to flower of the day.

Everyone knows that roses mean love. Red roses mean romantic love and possibly hot sex for the giver. Pink roses get the approval of the parents of the recipient, especially if she is under sixteen. They symbolize innocent love.

I pointed this out to my daughter Heather’s boyfriend, adding that white carnations mean the same thing and are a lot cheaper too. He’d have money left over to take her to dinner... as long as they stick to family restaurants. I knew my daughter had saved up to take him out to a movie. They’d have a wonderful romantic - but not too sexy - evening out. And I would be selling roses until closing and going home to an empty house.

I shouldn’t feel so sorry for myself. On the whole, I had it good. When my husband was alive, he brought home flowers from the shop every night. I had a big vase on the dining room table. What was in the vase reflected a week or more of messages. Iris for appreciation. Orange blossom for eternal love. Purple hyacinth when he was asking forgiveness or holly when he wasn’t, but he wanted to make peace.

Every day could be Valentine’s Day. Now no day was.

Yes, behind my retail smile, I was having a pity party.

“You must be tired.”

Damn! We were already past closing and I had a heavy bag waiting to be dropped off at the bank.

It was my daughter’s history teacher, Mr. Greer. Really nice man. He helped her complete grade eleven history last semester, when my daughter was laid up with mono for a month. He acted as the go-between, collecting up work from her other teachers and delivering it to the store every couple of days, and taking away the work she had completed. Time permitting, we talked about Heather’s progress, what was going on that day and traded professional trivia.

Now that Heather was back at school and had a whole new set of classes, I missed our meetings. It was meaningful adult conversation with a man that didn't require dating - something my daughter, friends and relations kept insisting I start. The idea of dating gave me the heebie-geebies.

I smiled. “The day is almost over. What can I get you? Just don’t ask for roses. We’re sold out except for pre-orders.”

“I did pre-order, but it wasn’t you I spoke to.”

I didn’t remember seeing his name, but we made up a pile of pre-orders last night. I turned to my assistant manager, Camilla. “Have we got a pre-order set aside for Angus Greer?”

She shrugged. “Doesn’t ring a bell. Maybe it was Lily.”

Lily had left early. She had a hot date with her soon to be fiancee. . . we hoped. Lily was popping the question tonight.

Camilla went and checked the walk-in fridge behind the counter. In a couple of minutes she poked her head out. “Could it be Agnes G.? Half dozen damask roses with apple blossoms and forget me nots?”

“That’s mine,” said Angus. “I just hope my reference for Medieval flower meanings is correct.”

While Camilla rang in the order, I searched my memory.

“Let’s see... damask roses are the ‘ambassador of love’.  Apple blossoms used to be a standard part of bridal bouquets because they were thought to bring good fortune.”

“And the promise of better things to come?”

I nodded. “That would work. Forget me nots are easy. You could also use rosemary for remembrance, but that might overwhelm the scent of the roses.”

“I definitely don’t want memories to overwhelm the roses.”

Angus tapped his credit card and the last sale of the day was made. Camilla gave me a hopeful look and I nodded.

“Go. I’ll lock up.”

“Can I help?” Angus asked.

I gestured at the flowers, feeling the self-pity well up again. “Don’t you have someone waiting for you?”

“No. I’m the one waiting and, if you let me help, I won’t be waiting as long.”

Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison Bruce has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of A Bodyguard to Remember and other novels with mystery, romance, suspense and sometimes history involved. 

You can find her here, on Facebook, Twitter (@alisonebruce), Pinterest, and working at Crime Writers of Canada as their Publications Manager.

Coming up...

February 15: Kevin Thornton