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Putting your writing out there – whatever way

sharon at CWC Arthur Ellis short list Marilyn Kay photo

We. all have to start somewhere to get our writing out there – first for publishing and then to promote the published work. Both can involve some reading in public. But getting out of our comfort zone of behind our laptop, Ipad, etc. isn’t easy at first. Our “audience” might not like our work. They might say rude things about it – like “don’t give up your day job soon.” They might not get what we are writing. Or maybe deep inside there is a fear of …not failure, but success.

Oh sure, I can say that easily, you think. I, who do live skits and TV shows featuring Dana Bowman, my author readings – alone or with other authors, which come across more as acting then reading. I who teach writing workshops and courses. I, who approach venues to do some of the aforementioned. And let’s not forget my 35 years as a freelance journalist which required much story pitching.

Dana Bowman does the into

It’s that last phrase that is important. Not the 35 years, but the years of experience. Maybe being a senior has something to do with it, too. Where you know your life length is ticking away so you (or I do) tend to take some chances you wouldn’t maybe do otherwise. I also am known as a big mouth – not just having a loud voice. I say what I mean and sometimes I’m blunt. Taking after my late mother? Maybe, but as I said, age can make a difference.

But it was not always this way and I’m not referring to age. Let me give some examples.

When I was 20 I began submitting short stories to magazines. One editor, of a now defunct magazine wrote a note back about one story “This isn’t a short story; this is an incident.”

I was so incensed, so upset that I gave up writing short stories for years.

But I didn’t give up writing. I just switched – to journalism, which I had been interested in anyway. I took many journalism courses at what is now Ryerson University in Toronto and at Seneca Community College. After the Seneca course in 1976, where every student in the course got published somewhere on their own merits and with good suggestions from the instructor), I started pitching stories to local newspapers

Not without trepidation. My first story pitch was about a local noisy ratepayers group.My then husband had to stand by me at the phone while I called and talked to the editor. When the editor said to “send the story” I got a little brave and mentioned that I had sent him a humorous personal essay and he said he would check it.

Both were published as were many more. And after those two, for journalism stories I just pitched the idea first. Personal essays, like fiction, you usually write first and pitch after. I also moved along to other local newspapers – at the request of their editors. So I wrote a weekly community news column for first one newspaper and then another.

But that didn’t go smoothly all the time. For the first one, the editor forgot to tell the current community news columnist that she was fired. She found out when I called her in her capacity as spokesperson for a community group for info. Oops.

At this newspaper I really messed up. Six months after I started writing my column , the editor of another newspaper asked me if I wanted to switch and write a similar column for them. Although the pay was higher, I declined out of loyalty to the first paper, because of the short time writing the column.

The following year the first newspaper gave me a raise of the princely sum of $5.00 a week. So when the “new” (as in a year and a half) columnist for newspaper no. 2 told me she was moving out of the area and so leaving the newspaper (yes, we “rivals” knew each other – covering the same events. Hey, a reporter from the first newspaper and a reporter from the second newspaper got married – they met covering town council meetings. Both became my friends and they are still married, although they each went on to different jobs and are now retired).

So I ate crow and phoned the editor at the second newspaper and said I had heard E. was leaving and I was now interested in writing the community news column for his newspaper. He gave me an appointment to go in to see him. By then my husband and I were separated – we had a preschooler son ,so there I was pushing his stroller into my interview with the editor.

I got the column and wrote it for six years until the publisher canned the column. I had also been writing community theatre reviews and feature articles. After the column went, I did some freelancing for several other local papers and then move don to the Toronto newspaper and magazine market – and other area magazines. Not all smooth sailing, which is one of my points. Like everything else in life, you get some bumps in the road. Each bump you handle adds to your experience and your confidence, although if you are like me, you still sometimes worry about it.

As for my reading, skits and TV appearances with my books, that’s from experience, too.Teaching the writing workshops helped develop confidence in front of other people.This for someone who in high school nervously took part in a class debate. Reading – I just practice before hand. Ditto the skits. And I have a little secret. I am terrible at memorizing scripts when I am acting with another person. Even on my own, I forget lines. So I improvise and make sure I have a script handy.

And the short story writing? I went back to it about 12 years ago – had some stories published in anthologies and my first Beyond mystery book, Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) was a collection of 13 stories.

Also to get a little practice in getting your writing out there and in reading,and some feedback, join a writing critique group. I blog about that here.

Cheers.

Sharon A,. Crawford

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Sharon A. Crawford hosts Crime Beat Confidential TV show

Now that I have finally taped the first segment of my TV show Crime Beat Confidential on the Internet channel thatchannel.com I have a few thoughts on doing a TV show.

First some basic info about the show.

Crime Beat Confidential is the new bi-monthly crime interview show hosted by former journalist and now mystery author Sharon A. Crawford https://samcraw.com/. The first segment opens with a short introduction by Private Investigator Dana Bowman, the main character in Sharon’s Beyond mystery series and then segues to Sharon and her guest, James G. Wigmore, a respected forensicric toxicologist. Sharon and James chat about alcohol, DUIs and cannabis. James covers not only the legal aspects, but some of the caveats with the current cannabis because as James says, “Not your grandad’s weed.”

Guest James Wigmore, forensic toxicologist and author of Wigmore on Cannabis

View the show here.

The next segment will be in mid-August. Guests will be in various areas of crime – although not murderers, but not all authors either – police officers and private investigators, crime writing and reading organizations. And authors will have something interesting and unique in their books to talk about.

So, how did all this happen?

I have been interviewed by Hugh Reilly on three segments of his Liquid Lunch show (and no, he does not serve us booze) – one segment for each of my Beyond books. Shane at my publisher’s (Blue Denim Press) got me in for the first book Beyond the Tripping Point the end of October 2012 the day after hurricane remnents hit Toronto. Still raining a bit the day of taping and I missed the bullet for overnight power outages which hit houses on my street from next door.

I’m a former journalist for 35 years or so and also as it turns out I have a new interest and apparently some talent for it – acting – comedy mainly. Those of you who follow this blog know that I sometimes dress up as my main character PI Dana Bowman for author presentations. Well with Dana introducing the show segment and then me taking over doing the interview, we had to tape the first part separately to give me time to change back into me

But to back-up – the producer at thatchannel.com asked me to do a show and Crime Beat Confidential was what I came up with including a sample schedule of shows and she loved it. I had to become a member of thatchannel.com to do the show, but that’s okay as it gives me other benefits including being listed as one of their show presenters. See here and also have a member profile.

We were supposed to tape the first segment in June but one of the two guests cancelled at the last minute as she couldn’t get tine off work. They are tentatively scheduled for the August taping and I have a guest booked for the fall taping.

I don’t think I took it too seriously at first.- especially after announcing it at a Sisters In Crime meeting and then had to postpone the taping. Guess I was going on the modus operatndi of “when I see it I will believe it.” or “when it gets taped…

There were a few ups and downs like the links for my first guest and me not being included in the show. But I think that’s been fixed for future shows.

And getting from the idea stage to actually taping took longer than I expected, but “life” gets in the way.

I found the experience of taping that first show very interesting and thought it went well. My guest has experience appearing on TV before, in court, and lecturing. As mentioned, I am a former journalist (print and online) but have also had some experience with TV – cable TV – doing a few interviews and getting interviewed, but mostly working behind the camera, including operating one of the cameras. My cohort in this was in front of the camera – she has a British accent and that goes over well in an interviewer. We were both freelance writers and we collaborated in choosing guests and met with the guests before to get to know them.

So, I am really enjoying doing this TV show – and. yes it is a way to promote my Beyond mystery books, but I get to. interview all these interesting people and learn something. And PI Dana Bowman gets out from between the book covers and well, rant a little as she does the brief introduction.

Again view the show here.

What do you think?

Anyone else using TV to promote their book? How did it go?

Dana Bowman does the into

 

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Muskie and Murder engages audience

Michael and Sharon – Muskie and Murder presentation June 27. Shane Joseph photo.

Muskie and Murder with Michael Robert Dyet (Muskie) and me, Sharon A. Crawford (Murder) made its debut presentation last evening at S. Walter Stewart Library. It was my East End Writers’ Group’s second event for 2018. Although I was disappointed in the small number of people who attended (probably to inaccurate weather forecasts for torrential rain) those of us there were really engaged in the presentation. I’m not talking just Michael and I and our guest speaker, Shane Joseph (editor at Blue Denim Press – our publisher), but the whole audience of writers and readers.

There was a continual conversation going on among all of us and I think we learned a lot. I know I did.

Using four different set-ups, we were all looking at what Michael so aptly titled The War between Literary Fiction and Mystery Fiction. We discussed questions dealing with plot and characters in both and not only discovered there is both in both types of fiction, but we found out we all read more than one or the other. Margaret Atwood (she of Alias Grace and The Handmaidens Tale) and Stephen King (Pet Cemetery,The Shining, The Outsider) entered the conversation – at least their names and writings did. So did memoirs – another “M” area of writing. Perhaps we should add Memoir to future presentations?

Then Shane asked Michael and I questions on plot and characters and then he asked us how often do we write and do we write regularly.

Not as often or regularly as we would like. The other stuff of life (Michael’s day job, my teaching writing and editing, the garden, and house problems ), all took up necessary time. But there are a lot of other things in our lives that can be pruned or purged and some of what is still there can be manouvered somewhat.

Michael and I read parts from our books based on a theme (not telling what – we want to use it at more presentations).

And then it was skit time. Michael played Norah Watson from “Slipstream”, the novella in Hunting Muskie and I played PI Dana Bowman (although Dana might argue about the latter as she thinks she wrote Beyond Faith and is a separate person. Hmm.) Norah had reluctantly hired Dana to find a missing family member, but Norah and Dana are like oil and water.

You can imagine how that went. If not you’ll have to catch a Muskie and Murder presentation in the fall.

PI Dana Bowman and Norah Watson. Shane Joseph photo.

Meantime, this whole presentation, particularly what the writers and readers in the audience said, has inspired me to get back on my creative writing track. Not just writing book promo blurbs and the like, but my own M and M – Mystery and Memoir. I remembered that I used to always write at least two afternoons a week – Friday was sacrosanct for my creative writing, with Wednesday afternoon another one.

Earlier this year I started the fourth Beyond mystery book, started another rewrite of a black noir mystery short story, and returned to my memoir writing – both the book and some shorter pieces for possible magazine publication.

And anyone who dares interfere with my writing time, let’s just say it could mean “murder”.

Well, between the book covers.

Do you write regularly?

How do you do it?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The Mystery half of Muskie and Murder.

Michael and Sharon with Muskie and Murder. Shane Joseph photo.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Beyond Faith on the PR road again

The latest Beyond mystery.

 

Beyond Faith continues in person appearances – the next one is with my writing colleague, Michael Robert Dyet. Our books were published by the same publisher (Blue Denim Press) and launched the same date last fall by Blue Denim Press. So Michael and I are doing some joint (and not the weed kind either) presentations, readings and the like. Besides the book launch we have both done readings at the same library last fall. But this upcoming presentation, next Wednesday, June 27, is the first of this kind and more are in the works. And Michael writes literary fiction and is known as The Metaphor Man. I write murder mysteries and am sometimes mistaken for my main Beyond book character, Dana Bowman.

I came up with the general idea, then narrowed it down to the below blurb. But Michael organized and wrote what we are going to do – it is very interactive with the audience. We don’t want to put people to sleep. We’ve been practicing and still are practicing and fine-tuning as we go. This is the show’s inaugural and are we nervous? You tell me. Nervous energy is good as long as the memory doesn’t pull a blank.

Anyway, here’s the blurb for it to give you an idea what it’s about.

East End Writers’ Group Presents Muskie and Murder

Is there murder in literary fiction and character depth in mystery fiction? Join Michael Robert Dyet, author of the literary short story collection “Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage” and Sharon A. Crawford, author of the mystery novel “Beyond Faith”, for a lively discussion, rapid-fire questions, readings, audience participation and a skit involving story characters. Free. All welcome. Rumour has it that there will be a special guest.

Date and Time: Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Location:

S. Walter Stewart Library (auditorium)

170 Memorial Park Ave. (Coxwell/Mortimer Ave. area)

Toronto

And there will be book characters present including her… (and she is NOT the special guest although she may think she is.)

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

 

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area,  hope to see yhere. If not, you can always read our books. They are available in the usual places, Amazon, Indigo-Chapters and the like including some bookstores – chain and independent – for those who like to visit bricks and mortars stores.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Getting story ideas from your neighborhood

The latest Beyond mystery. Click on it for more info

In the last post I talked about getting story ideas from your garden. But here’s another story source – your neighborhood. Maybe the house down the street is a marijuana grow -op ( there was one kitty-corner across the street from me a few years ago. Unfortunately I was out when the police raid went down.). Maybe there are always loud arguments from the house next door. Maybe…

Well, never the maybes here. This morning a couple of legal surveyors knocked on my door to let  me know that they would be doing a survey of the next door neighbor’s house – on the other side of my driveway – just to let me know they were there and what they were doing. The wouldn’t tell me why, said they don’t know and aren’t told. Yeah, right. When I found them on my verandah taking pictures of my property i called them on it and they said they need to get the properties next door for boundaries as the underground metal stakes weren’t found.

Oh! Oh!  Even though they said they were probably removed (these houses go back to 1949 and 1950), it got me thinking – what if the underground metal stakes are under my driveway? What if they have to dig up that part of my driveway. What if somewhere the property line is wrong and part of my property is really theirs? And what are they going to do? Build a fence around their property? Sell their house? Or add an addition? Because they have three kids and they are all getting older, and the boy’s room is tiny, I’m guessing it’s an upper addition. Except for selling their house, most larger renovations including fences, require a permit and before that a property survey. If they are building an addition, does the city give  notice to  us living near in case I want to object? I don’t know about Toronto, but when I lived in Aurora, they did when the neighbors wanted to do so. because it would invade our privacy (on higher ground than our house), my then ex-husband and I formally objected. They couldn’t build an addition, so they build a swimming pool and held noisy parties late into the night. Some of us called the police.

You can see where this real life occurrence can give you story ideas? What if the surveyors were actually casing the joint to do a robbery? What if they are actually who they say they are and the boundaries are wrong. What about the change starting a neighbors’ feud – which could lead to murder? What if…?

What is going on in your neighborhood? Does your neighborhood have a neighborhood gossip? Most do. Ours does and I’m going to talk to her, although I suspect in this case I know more. Stay tuned to what is happening in your neighborhood and your neighbors. You may just get an idea for your next story. Just don’t forget to fictionalize it – use the real situation as a kick-off point for your story and create if from there.

And for those in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, I’m one of several authors reading at an event for the alumni of workshops and/or courses taught by well know southern Ontario writing instructor and editor Brian Henry this Sunday afternoon. Specifics are:

Author Readings at The Wallace Gastropub

Sunday, June 10, 2018

12 noon – 4 p.m.

Location:

The Wallace Gastropub

1954 Yonge St, Toronto (Just north of Davisville)

Sharon A. Crawford reads from Beyond Faith as she joins other alumni of Brian Henry’s writing classes to showcase their writing creations. More info here.

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford’

Author of the Beyond mystery series

 

 

 

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Getting ideas from your garden

Scene from my garden

Many of us writers are also gardeners. I’m not sure why. Both are creative although not in the same vein. One we create with words and the other we create with colour, design and more practically for food to eat. Writing is more in the head and gardening requires a lot of physical exercise. So maybe the two provide balanced living.

For example, when something about a story I’m writing hits a stalling point, I go out in the garden. Often I end up pulling weeds. Like the bad things in life irritating me, which I want gone, I want the weeds gone. And sometimes when someone or some entity (read big utility company and the like) has messed up something in my life, I give the weeds names as I yank them out and pitch them in the yard waste bin. And yes, when I’m done in the garden I often have an idea how to deal with the problem person or entity.

And I often get a story idea – like the short story I’m writing and rewriting about telemarketers.

So, let’s see how something in the garden can bring about a story idea. Let’s take something common in people’s gardens – wildlife trespassing and doing damage. In particular raccoons getting into the garbage and creating a mess. I used that idea as part of the plot in my first Beyond novel Beyond Blood. I had someone doing a series of break and enters one summer also leaving a dead raccoon at some of the places. There was a reason for it and not to punish raccoons for causing damage. You’ll have to read Beyond Blood to find out what.

But raccoons or any other animal doing garden damage can conjure up several story ideas: a rash of garbage and recycling bins being knocked over in a neighborhood on collection days. Raccoons? Or something else. Maybe a red herring for something really bad going on. Perhaps someone in the neighborhood wants to sell their property to a developer and his or her neighbors don’t want to. Or vice versa Maybe a developer wants to tear down some old houses to put up condos. So someone (depending on your story’s angle) might be imitating raccoon actions to make the area no longer livable for the residents and so they will want to sell, but not get caught.

Or back to the weeds for another story idea. Whose name are you using when you pull a weed and why? What’s the problem the person is causing? Take it from there but fictionalize it.  Like I did with the telemarketer story. I wrote it somewhat tongue in cheek but it is a murder mystery (well, that is what I write). I decided to take a crack at telemarketers and created a fictitious telemarketing firm and had a gardener and a non-gardener who are friends go after that company. And that’s all I’ll say.

And from that, you can see your story characters don’t all have to be gardeners. In my Beyond series, neither PI Dana Bowman or her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture are gardeners, but gardens and gardening appear in two of the short stories featuring them in Beyond the Tripping Point. In “Road Raging”, the twins traipse through a garden gone dormant in the fall – they are after a road rager. In “Digging Up The Dirt” inside a garden centre  something poisonous in it is featured.

Want more ideas? Watch the old BBC series Rosemary and Thyme which has two gardeners who are hired to fix large estate gardens in England and always run into murder. One of the two women gardeners is a former police detective. Sometimes PBS runs reruns but it is also available ion You Tube.

Or if you want something currently running on TV on one of the specialty channels – try Midsummer Murders – often takes place in a large beautiful English country garden although murders are investigated by police, not gardeners.

Take a look at the photo from my garden at the beginning of this post. Does it give you an idea for a story?

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series. Latest Beyond Faith. Here is one of the other Beyond books mentioned in the post above. Click on it for more info about it and the other two Beyond books.

 

 

 

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Claiming my time to write, edit and teach writing

Ready to cut loose from pesky interruptions

Lately my writing time and time to do client work kept getting shoved to the back burner because of too many other things getting in the way. So, last week I started to just dive in and write and do the work clients have hired me to do. And push everything else to the back burner.

Isn’t quite working out that way. An unexpected heavy rainfall resulted in some water in the basement and I had to postpone a lunch meeting with a client because I was constantly mopping up. Usually I get a neighbour to check the basement for a few hours if heavy rainfall is forecast. This storm wasn’t until the last minute and I wasn’t going to call my neighbour at the last minute. I mean he is doing me a favour. So, in future I will be more diligent about weather.

And this week I am on a hard purge of what I do and whom I allow to take up my time.

So, out is the would-be landscaper who doesn’t listen to me. Apparently it didn’t sink in when I told him – four times – that I only could afford to pay him for one hour until the end of the month. He didn’t do that great a job of digging part of may garden anyway. The kicker was after I told him no more until the end of the month, he called me four times in an hour and a half (I checked the call display and didn’t answer and he didn’t leave a message). When he landed on my doorstep an hour later I told him off and sent him packing. But he still tried to get my by phone – texting – good luck with that on a land line.

And the self-published author I was introduced to via Linked In by a mutual friend. I had to postpone when we could “chat” (his words, which should have rung alarms in my mind if it wasn’t so cluttered). I did agree to meet him at an author reading/presentation I was at with other authors. We talked a bit, but I told him I was not available until after May 5 and we could meet then. So what does he do but start emailing me with what do I do questions. Excuse me, but this is something I do for a living and he is not a paying client. I ignored the emails and decided he could fend for himself.

Sounds harsh? Maybe. But it’s my writing time and my client work time.

I am also pulling back a bit (time-wise) this month in doing book promo for after June. Still doing some, but trying to work it in between the writing and client work instead of the other way around. That means less time on Facebook and other social media. And it also means cutting back on email time. So, I guess I will be setting the timer when I’m reading and answering email and on Facebook too.

But I’m still going to garden. I can dig my garden myself – always have. And so is spending time with family and friends.

How do you deal with pesky interruptions and other time-stealers that get in the way of your writing?

Comment, please?

Now back to client work.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mysteries.

The latest Beyond mystery. Click on it for more info

 

 

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