Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Genre isn't gender --difficult writing concepts

Today Author Melodie Campbell discusses an issue dear to my heart--fitting  one's novel into a genre slot.  First those darned editors and publishers demand that you be creative and original. "Ensure your work is unique," they say.  Then, when you're done and pitch it to them, they make you assign a genre.

"Is it mystery?" they ask.  "Suspense?"

"I only do Sci-Fi, isn't this Fantasy?"

"I won't get a government grant to help with publishing costs if this isn't Canadiana Literary Fiction.  Did you say it is Romance?"

*sigh*  Just what is an author supposed to do?

Master of the short story,  well-known columnist, and debut novelist, Melodie Campbell, has it all figured out...sort of.

 Take it away, Mel!

Bad Novel
When your Story decides to Switch Genres

A funny thing happened on the way to the mystery novel…it became a fantasy!

I was supposed to be writing a classic mystery, not a comic romantic fantasy like Rowena Through the Wall.  How did that happen?

For twenty years, I have been known as a writer of short mystery and suspense.  With over 30 short story publications and 5 awards for mystery fiction, my first novel had to be a mystery.  Everyone said so.  I started three of them.  Two weren’t bad.  But somehow I could never get up the energy to complete them.  Instead, I was tempted by the ‘lure of the virgin project’, usually a short story.

Then a strange thing happened.  I was sitting at my desk one day, totally overwhelmed with work and family and parental caregiving, and thought, if I could walk through that wall over there into another world, I would.  Rowena had her start that night.  If I couldn’t walk through that wall, dammit, she could! 

What I needed was to escape, not ‘plan’.  Mystery novels have a lot of planning to them.  I had enough of that at my day job.  Why not just start writing something that is a total escape to write?  Something Fun!

For a mystery writer, this is akin to walking off the job.  For the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada, it feels like treason!  Write 80,000 words of romantic fantasy? 

The shocking thing is how easily it came.  This is when I concocted the writing theory of ‘worst thing’.  What’s the worst thing that could happen when Rowena walks through that wall?  Or the most embarrassing thing?  Or the funniest?  And when she comes back through the wall…wait a minute.  What if she can’t?

Finally I figured it out, and the discovery shocked me:  I was writing the kind of novel I wished someone else would write, so that I could read it.  A no-holds-barred adventure story…sexy, funny, and a wild ride of fantasy. 

I waited for the reaction.  It was strong and varied. “I’ve never read anything like it before, and I love it!” One reviewer said.  Uh oh, said I.  That may mean there isn’t a market for it.

Enter my smart publisher who said….”you know, with a little more romance, we could slide this into the paranormal romance market.”  Will I do it?  Yes!  Did it hurt?  A little.  For writers, our books are like surrogate babies.  We created them, after all.  And then after birth we pass them on to our publishers and editors to ‘raise’ them, and bring them to market.  I have to feel that my publisher knows more about the market out there than I do.  So we compromised on some things – to both our satisfaction. 

And I always kept in mind that the publisher is putting his/her own money into the production of my book.  Adjusting things to reach a larger market just makes sense.

Rowena didn’t care.  She’s off on adventure number two, Rowena and the Dark Lord.

Melodie Campbell’s book Rowena Through the Wall (Imajin Books) is available at and Smashwords.
Smashwords - Rowena Through the Wall
Follow Melodie at

View trailer and read opening scene at

Melodie Campbell got her start as a comedy writer, so it’s no surprise that editors have called her work ‘wacky’ and ‘laugh out loud funny’.  She has over 200 publications, including 100 humour columns, 30 short stories and one novel.  She has received five awards for fiction, and is the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada.

Thank you for making genre clear for us, Melodie.  Now, to download Rowena and see if she ever makes it back through that wall....

Eileen Schuh, Author
Schrödinger's Cat

Sample or Purchase THE TRAZ, a "triple 5-star review" novel:
Amazon - THE TRAZ
Smashwords - THE TRAZ

THE TRAZ, a newly released YA novel, is as daring, raw, and spirited as the young heroine.  It’s exhilarating entertainment but it also contains a vital message for those on the cusp of maturity and for the adults who guide them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

From Europe with love...

Europe, especially the UK which shares its language, history, and culture with many of us, is largely an untapped market for Canadian writers. It would be great to find a British audience for our books—payback time for all the Curious George, Winnie the Pooh, and Shakespeare books we’ve read. (And Charles Dickens, and Alice in Wonderland, and...)

There are more people in one village in the UK than in all of Canada-and most of them can read. Canadians sometimes forget that we and our country are exotic and foreign to others. We think the Rocky Mountains and hockey are the only things of interest in this vast land.

However, I can’t help but believe that a child in London would find the idea of living in a cabin in the shadow of the Rockies exciting. She’d love to learn what it feels like to ride a motorbike along a never-ending ribbon of highway traversing an Alberta prairie.

A girl sitting in the shadow of Big Ben would be intrigued by a story about surviving a blizzard and thrilled to learn how it feels to be kissed by a Chinook.

Ancient writers like me haven’t travelled much farther than Hawaii or the Caribbean, but the next generation is intent on becoming quite international. Young adults are gallivanting around the globe—seeking the exotic.  The plethora of British and Aussie young people tramping across Canada is proof that despite our cold, dark winters and our hot, mosquitoey summers, Canada does have appeal to others besides just us and our American cousins.

In this age of technology, eBooks are available with a click and no postage; it ought to be easy to sell books to the entire English-speaking world--no matter which side of the Atlantic one is on.

Pauline Barclay and I eyed up each other’s markets and decided to taste the greener grasses that seem to be thrive on the side of the ocean opposite us.

As a guest here today on my blog, Pauline Barclay introduces her feisty European summer romance SOMETIMES IT HAPPENS... to the great crowd of eager North American readers.

In turn, I am promoting THE TRAZ, replete with bikers roaring across the vast Alberta prairies, to her European fans at

Let’s go international!

Heeeeer’s Pauline!

Today, I’ve been invited onto Eileen’s Blog.  We met on Twitter just a few weeks ago and I feel already that she is a great friend. The ease in which she helps follow Indie authors is both heart-warming and encouraging. So I am doubly honoured to be here sharing her friends and followers, thank you.

I’m Pauline Barclay, I’m English and was brought up In the UK, though since marrying my wonderful husband, Clive we have moved around a little. Before moving to Lanzarote we lived in Holland, in a beautiful Dutch town called Leiden, but for now we are settled on this lovely volcanic island in the Canary Isles (70 miles from the Moroccan coastline). Here the sun shines most of the time, though like much of the world, our weather pattern has been strange this year. Having said this, I live in shorts, t-shirt and sandals, so you can guess it isn’t cold!

We live close to the beach, so most evenings we can be seen taking our two adorable rescue doggies for walks along the seafront.

My third book, Sometimes It Happens… was published on Kindle in May. I am an Indie publisher and for this book I did things differently. Firstly, I had an amazing mentor who is also a brilliant author, who saw me through the entire manuscript, checking for continuity, believability, repetition and so much more. Then to add the final sparkle, I had the cover designed by a Graphics design company. I just love the cover, it says so much about the story: Fun, sunny and inviting!

Sometimes It Happens…is about secrets, deception, lies, love and laughter. Winning the lottery was just the beginning. Nothing prepared Doreen Wilkinson for her holiday at Villas Bonitas and nothing prepared Villas Bonitas for Doreen Wilkinson. This is a holiday that will never be forgotten by many people!

Sometimes It Happens… Will make the reader laugh out loud, I certainly did writing it!

Sometimes It Happens… (an excerpt)

"Nothing in her wildest dreams had prepared Doreen Wilkinson for something like this. But then, nothing had prepared her for winning the lottery either.

Several million. Several million. Eleven million, three hundred and fifty four thousand, two hundred and ten pounds and nineteen pence to be precise.

She had giggled at the nineteen pence. “Break the bleedin’ bank that will!”

The media had made the comment a headline, “19p to break the bleedin’ bank!” splashed all over the Sun and Daily Mirror accompanied by her smiling face and a fountain spray of champagne. She had thought it a waste shaking that great big bottle and letting it fizz everywhere, but the reporters had told her to do it..."

You can download Sometimes It Happens… from Amazon Kindle.  Sometimes It Happens...

My other two novels, Magnolia House and Satchfield Hall are available in both paperback and Kindle editions. In between marketing and all my other commitment, I am busy with my fourth novel!

Despite the different stories of my three books, one thing I can say about all my novels, and that is, you will need a tissue!

When you have time, please pop along and say hello at my Blog

Or visit my web site where you can read sample chapters from Magnolia House and Satchfield Hall and also meet some of my wonderful guest, including Suzy!

You can also find me on Facebook

and twitter @paulinembarclay

Thank you again Eileen for your wonderful hospitality, I love it and a big hug for already reading my book, Sometimes It Happens…

Wishing you great success with your great new novel, THE TRAZ.


Thank you so much for your spirited conversation, Pauline.  I have read Sometimes It Happens... and it is a perfect beach-read for those upcoming hot Canadian summer days on the shores of those frigid northern lakes...or in one's hammock in the shade of that highrise.  If you don't get to it this summer, it's perfect winter reading for a rocker in front of the fireplace or a lounger in the Carribbean! 

Grab your Kindle and klick!

Eileen Schuh, Author

THE TRAZ (Smashwords)

THE TRAZ (BackTracker Series) Amazon

Web site:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why I write for troubled teens

The email said, “...I love your troubled-kid books. I find them so reflective of the kids I work with. I definitely think this genre is your forte. Two thumbs up!”

to sample/buy

That got me thinking about why I write for troubled kids. I don’t have a strong real-life connection to children-at-risk. I was a well-behaved child and never had to bail any of my own kids out of jail.

I do remember, though, that being a kid was tough. At the age of 6, I was thrown in with forty other 6-year-olds and none of us had any social skills. By the very nature of our brain development, we were self-centred, self-serving, and possessed little compassion and understanding for others.

Whereas those in more primitive cultures socialize their youngsters within the confines of the family or tribal unit, in my culture I was abruptly torn from the family home and thrown into an institution full of total strangers—adults and children—all with different customs, expectations, manners, and life experiences.

The family home, with all whom I knew and loved, was a 90 minute bus ride away from the school. At merely 6-years old, I was the victim of culture shock and I experienced it alone and unaided.

I loved the learning part of school life, but flunked miserably in the social skills department. Perhaps if technology and communication and opportunity had been back then what it is today, perhaps I would’ve been a “child-a-risk”. As it was, I didn’t have much opportunity to do anything but cry inside and go home—only to return to the frightening classroom the next day.

Parents and guardians, please ensure you are not expecting your youngsters to face adult situations or situations that adults wouldn’t be able to handle. (Would you go to work if the guy at the next desk thumped you over the head each day and stole your lunch? If the secretary constantly told you that you stank? If nobody would sit with you at coffee break?) As adults we have many more skills and resources to call upon to deal with such awkward and demeaning social situations, yet we would wither under such daily stresses.

I share some of the background of children-at-risk. I experienced child abuse, including sexual abuse. This abuse left me scarred but strong. The betrayal, pain, and anxiety made me who I am. In fact, my quest to find the words to identify and understand what was happening to me was the catalyst behind both my desire to read and my compulsion to write.

There were many who could have stepped in to end my abuse, but nobody did. Back then there was no kids’ help line, no protocol for professionals to report suspicions, no education for either adults or children on abuse. Abuse was a secret-something that happened in dark and isolated homes—homes that society viewed as the private, unapproachable castles of the adults who lived there.

It is my hope that all cases of child abuse (which is often a precursor of risky adolescent behaviour) will be identified and stopped. I hope that adults become educated and brave enough to report it. I hope the social experts and the judicial system know enough to stop it, or better yet, prevent it. I hope abused children find their voice and cry—out loud—for help.

 It is my hope that children’s lack of social skills (another precursor of misbehaviour) is addressed at all levels of society. May parents teach their children to empathize, sympathize, understand, and accept. May educators teach children team work; respect each student’s individuality and customs; and enjoy the differences expressed by each child. May entire communities strive to be inclusive and provide activities, teams, sports, arts, music, dance, and other challenging opportunities that youngsters need to develop into caring and productive adults. Let’s give them exciting alternatives to playing hide-and-seek with the cops and their parole officers.

May everyone, in the entire world, protect our children—keep them warm and fed and far away from danger. May all adults keen on using or abusing youngsters, be barred from our communities.

A South Korean classrom and me

May we work at making all children smile.

May we strive to hear all children laugh.

That would indeed be a joyous world in which to live.

Eileen Schuh, Canadian Author
Schrödinger's Cat