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Word on the Street for Writers and Readers

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

The annual Word on the Street (WOTS) Festival is coming up this Sunday, September 25 in Toronto. WOTS has been running since 1990  when it first began on Queen St. West in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Since then it has added locations such as Vancouver, British Columbia, Kitchener, Ontario, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. This year the date for all locations is no longer the same date, so Halifax and Saskatoon were last weekend, but Lethbridge, Alberta is this Saturday, September 24 and Toronto is this Sunday, September 25. WOTS has also changed the Toronto festival location twice – first to Queens Park by the Ontario Parliament buildings in downtown Toronto and then last year to the newly upgraded. renovated Toronto Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto and on Lake Ontario.

Although the original location reflects the festival title, I found it difficult to get around here. Yes, part of Queen St. was closed to traffic, with booths in the middle of the street, but you had to plan your stops ahead of time. Otherwise you could be near one end of the street and want to get to a booth or booths at the other ends.

With the Queens Park location, booths were set up in the circled walkway in the park so you could either follow along that or cut across the grass in between. You also had the green park atmosphere, better than a busy street. I liked this location and it was at this location I did a talk in one of the guest writer, writing information, publishing,  and the like tents. I believe the talk was about Interviewing techniques for journalists – I was still working as a freelance journalist then.

The Toronto Harbourfront Centre has been received with mixed reaction. I personally like it – there is the on-the-waterfront location which can be calming and most of the booths are in the same area, so easy enough to get to beyond the usual finding the booth itself by the number – something that was normal with any of the locations.

For the latter two locations, I have been able to sell copies of my Beyond books at the Crime Writers of Canada booth or in the case of Beyond the Tripping Point the year it was coming out – let potential readers know – it was pre-book launch and I didn’t have book copies so had flyers for the book launch. One of them I fashioned with two holes at the top with a string in between. I wore it so after my one hour at the CWB booth was finished, I walked around wearing the flyer.

When Beyond Blood came out in fall 2014, again WOTS was before the book launch, but I had a few pre-launch copies from my publisher (Blue Denim Press) with the instructions to sell to anyone not going to the book launch.

Which I did.

Last year I added an hour with my books at the Toronto Sisters in Crime booth and sold copies of both books. I had a sale price for purchase of both books together and plan to do something like that again this year and perhaps something extra. Not telling. You will have to come out to WOTS in Toronto to see what. But also to meet and talk to  well-known authors and hear them reading, information for writers to get published – often with panel discussions, books for sale, many smaller publishers, writing and editing organizations, plus public libraries, ESL, magazines – small and more wide-spread, book publishers, and of course, food.

For more information on WOTS see here and for the Toronto WOTS go here.

And to see where I’ll be when (at least at the booths), go to my Gigs and Blogs page.

Hope to see you there – well some of you.

As usual the Beyond Blood book icon at the top links to info about my books and my author profile.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Getting Started Writing That Book

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

A friend wants to write a book and is having trouble getting started. She has done the necessary research and her mind is overflowing with ideas. But actually sitting down at the computer and writing it is presenting a problem. I know that feeling of having too many ideas brewing and circulating in the mind – even AFTER I have begun writing my books .

Both my friend and I have journalist backgrounds and I wonder if that has something to do with it. Journalists are known for collecting way too much information and many procrastinate about actually starting. But journalists often do an outline first to narrow down what exactly the want to include in their story. When I wrote newspaper and magazine articles, that’s what I did. I also had one peculiarity. I had to get at least a good draft of the story lead before I could write further. And I’ve mentioned this before, for one story I had four possible beginnings and not until I phoned another journalist and read out the four beginnings and she chose one, could I proceed further.

Some of these journalist habits can be transferred to books – fiction and non-fiction. In particular, do an outline. Some writers seem to be afraid to do an outline but if you remember that it is not sealed in granite and changes are possible as you actually write the book (and that is so usual with fiction), it can free you to do an outline.

Or if you don’t want to actually do an outline, do a list of the most important ideas and information you have. Often just getting it down, frees the chaos in your mind and also gives you some reference points.

I still try to get a good beginning draft, but try to keep in mind that it will probably change. Just yesterday, while doing more rewriting of my next Beyond novel, I changed the beginning somewhat – more the presentation than actual content. And yes, it came from an idea percolating in my head (plus a previous comment from the editor at my publisher’s about how I was handling a certain aspect of the novel, which included the beginning). In my case, the focus was coming up with something different in presentation and format from Beyond Blood.

If you still can’t get started and freeze in front of the computer, maybe try some freefall writing to unlock your creativity. Think of an emotion you are feeling now, or something bothering you in your life and just start writing about it for 15 to 20 minutes. Stop only to breathe (although you probably won’t even notice that you are still breathing). Go where the emotion you are feeling leads you. Go where the words lead you. You might go off on a tangent you hadn’t anticipated.

And you might just get writing something you can use in your book.

At any rate, your creativity will  be unleashed and your self-confidence will get a boost.

I also suggest reading Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way for her ideas on getting going with your writing. Because the other thing is you have to set out some regular writing time and days and stick to it. Treat it like  your job and the payoff isn’t necessarily in money, at this point, but a book manuscript that you are finally starting to write.

Cheers.

Sharon

And the usual, click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top for more info about my books and go to the Gigs and Blog Tours Page for more information on my upcoming author events.

 

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Dana Bowman and the Beyond books return to the promo circuit

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

As hinted at in last week’s post, with summer holiday months now officially over, September is the time to get thing rolling with writing and book promo. And so I am.

Without going into the whole PR she-bang (you can read some of that on the Gigs and BlogTours Page  connected to this blog – link is below. More gigs to be added shortly.) I have some info on the gig there) and the Book page (Beyond Blood in particular) on my website.

Instead, I’ll just talk a bit about published authors using unusual means to promote their books. Some piggy-back on plays or other public events connected to their book’s contents; others start anthologies to help showcase theirs and others stories – particularly newbie authors.Some do a lot of cross-publishing and promotion – for example, writing both short stories and novels and entering them in contests. If they win, place or show, that is something that can be used to promote their books. Others get involved in various literary and fund-raising events to read from their books or…

I do the latter, but with a twist. As I have mentioned in a few previous posts, I like to dress up as my main Beyond Blood character, PI Dana Bowman and do comedy skits – mainly where she disses me the author but in the process tells something about the books. Dana doesn’t read in her skit.

Dressing up as Dana can be challenging. We are roughly the same height, so I don’t need to wear elevator shoes or stoop and we are both skinny. But she doesn’t need glasses and I do. Her hair is short black and mine is shoulder-length brown and grey (depending on when I last had a hairdressing appointment). There is also the age-difference problem. Dana is 25 or so years younger than me. Fortunately I have a youngish face, so that helps.

I try to keep it simple – the biggest wardrobe accessories are a black wig and my prescription sunglasses – Dana does wear sunglasses, although not prescription. The sunglasses also hide any “crows feet on the side of my eyes – so that helps with the age difference. And touch wood, I still can move fast physically and have a lot of energy (or so I am told) most of the time. The rest of the wardrobe is just basics – jeans or denim capri pants and a pullover or T-shirt, running shoes, and a cap, which is Dana’s usual ensemble. Oh, I did buy a large purse bag at a yard sale and use that as Dana’s big bag which she totes around with her everywhere and which can contain her sketch pad, handcuffs, and a copy of Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point. Dana has her instructions to show the books to her audience while she talks.

And as mentioned in last week’s post, Dana is going to be doing something completely different in her next appearance. She will team up with the main character from the latest novel by author Shane Joseph for what we hope is a hilarious skit combing fiction with reality. Dana will have her work cut out. One of Shane’s past careers was as an actor and I am a newbie actor here (really, I’m a drama queen or should that be comedy queen?) and we are combining a literary novel character (Shane’s) with a genre novel character (mine). Now let’s hope Dana doesn’t fall flat on her face – unless that is in her script. At least where we are appearing (Mount Pleasant Public Library branch in Toronto, October 27), the room doesn’t have a stage and is carpeted.

That is all I’m saying about that for now. You can check out Shane Joseph here and our gig in the Gigs and Blog Tours page here.

And the usual. Click on the Beyond Blood book at the top to go to my Amazon profile and book copies.

Cheers.

Sharon

And here’s Dana….

Dana Bowman with bag cropped

 

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Rewriting Novels Using Both Sides of the Brain

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Rewriting a novel can be daunting, especially with the many, many rewrites that are necessary. I find there is no right way to do it, but with all the rewrites with my third Beyond book, I discovered by accident a way to be both creative and practical.

Use both sides of your brain – the right side for creativity and the left side for the logical and practical. Let me explain.

Without giving away the plot, let’s just say, like most of my story lines, it is complicated. That means the characters, like real people are complicated.

So I brainstorm outside of writing time for what I could change. When I sit down at the computer, I re-read all the novel and make a few notes. Then I tackle it from the beginning, dealing with it in parts. As I write more ideas come into my brain. But each idea leads to something that will have to be added or changed later on in the novel. So how do I keep track. Sure, I can make a few notes in another file, but mainly I use the Word comment for this with some suggestions.Then I can go back and update later. However, often the creative spirit married to the logical spirit moves me to do so right away. So I follow the thread to the next part that needs changing and do so.

I’ll give you one example which won’t give the story away. My Beyond novels, as well as four stories in Beyond the Tripping Point, feature fraternal twin private investigators, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture. While they partner in their business, they do split up the investigation a lot of the time. One of the things with this is the twins have to keep each other updated with what they find. So that has to go in somehow somewhere or else later on I will be writing from say Bast’s point of view as if he already knows what Dana found out – but nowhere does it say this.The reader can’t assume Dana told him. But I don’t always want a long dialogue between the two unless it can move the plot forward and/or develop the characters.

So, I sometimes use the phrase “Bast brought Dana up to speed about….” or “Dana brought Bast up to speed about…” Sometimes I don’t even do that but just have Bast in his next investigative action think “Dana had told him that… ” and very briefly mention it. I  do the same with Dana and do so when what one twin told the other is relevant to the other twin’s current detecting.

But with all this to-ing and fro-ing something else different has come up – what would happen if one twin didn’t tell the other twin what he or she found out?

Yes, it can be a somewhat constant shifting to different parts of the brain and I find that one feeds the other. And often you are rewriting on the creative side during most of that day’s writing time.

Now if I can just follow through with my rewrite of Beyond….  Nope, not even giving away the title.

Meantime, you can check out Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point. Link to all that can be found in the usual spot – the book cover at the top.

And later this month I will be back on the PR road for the Beyond books, so next week will be updating both the Gigs and Blog Tours part of this blog (a fiction writing workshop I’m teaching in October is already listed) and also the book page of my website. And yes, Dana will be doing another comedy skit gig in late October – this time with a really big twist. Stay tuned.

Cheers.

Sharon. A. Crawford

 

 

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More on your setting in fiction

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Besides actual location, setting also includes information peculiar to what is happening in the location. For example, in my novel Beyond Blood, the main character PI Dana Bowman goes sailing with Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding. Fielding has been sailing for years but this is Dana’s first time aboard a large sailboat – more like a small yacht. So I combined my limited sailing background with checking in with an expert in this area and also some reading online and in books about sailing..

A few years ago I wrote a newspaper story on a fellow, a seasoned sailor, who was planning to sail at least partway around the world. His “sailboat” (the small yacht type) was anchored in the Harbourfront area of Toronto Harbour. I made an appointment to interview him for the story and met him on his boat. When I arrived he was swabbing the deck.

I told him I was also going to ask a few extra questions for background information for a novel I was writing. He gave me the boat tour – it is amazing what can be packed into the small enclosed area below – everything from a small kitchen to a bathroom to a place to sleep. He was very informative but he did not take me out on Lake Ontario. So, I had to go back a few years when my son, still a child, and I went sailing with my friend and her boyfriend – for the feel of it, to remember you always wear a life jacket when on a sailboat, to how the winds affect the sailing, to falling into the water. No, I (who can’t swim) didn’t fall in, but my friend, a good swimmer did. She was okay with her life jacket on and just laughed about it as she swam the short distance back to the boat and climbed back aboard. But it gave me information for Beyond Blood although no one falls in the water.

So when Dana first goes out on the water with Fielding, I work it in as a friendly lesson while avoiding making it an expository or Sailing 101. Here is a short excerpt:

“Here put on a life jacket.” He handed me one which I donned. Fielding put on the other one and shoved the cooler under the floor. “Please sit down while I hoist the sail.”

” Need any help?”

“No.” He looked into my face. “Fine, but you have to obey orders if you want to crew.”

“Aye, aye sir.” I saluted,

Fielding moved away and moved into what resembled a cockpit, lowered the centreboard and removed the tarp, exposing two sails.”

“Here, store the tier below deck.”

“Huh?”

Fielding pointed to where the cooler rested. Taking hold of the tier, I folded it and placed it below deck.

“Maybe I’ll just watch this time.” I sat down on one of the benches.  (From Beyond  Blood, copyright Sharon A. Crawford, 2014, Blue Denim Press)

Dana does help more a bit later. The whole chapter is not about learning to sail as Fielding and Dana also use the time to find out more about each other until…

Well, I’m not going to say what happens or how this chapter ends.You’ll have to read Beyond Blood to find out. Click on the book cover at the top to find out one of the places the book is available. For now,  I’ll just say that later in the novel, Dana has to use her sailing knowledge to try to save a family member. So, the first sailing episode was not just a respite from all the murder and mayhem, but also served a purpose – showing how Dana learns something about sailing so that when she has to use it in a life-threatening situation, it is not a skill pulled out of air with a quick explanation such as “I (Dana) learned to swim a few years ago” tacked on to it.

That is something else to remember. You may have more leeway in a novel to go off on so-called tangents, but make sure they have something to do with character development and plot – especially in mystery novels.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Fiction Setting in past times

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Some of us write fiction set in past times. That could be from last year back several decades or centuries. My Beyond stories are set in the late 1990s, so many things were different even back then 17 or 18 years ago.For example, technology could be considered part of setting (think wi-fi availability today in cafes, public transit, and just walking along the street). What we take for granted today, may not have been around back in the days of your novel or short story.

One big setting factor is weather. We can all probably figure out that today’s weather is much more extreme in all ways. There are more floods, tornadoes, heavy snowfalls, etc. And so if you are writing in another time period, you have to be aware what is going on in the weather then. And not in general, but on the days your story takes place and the actual location. That requires some research beyond your memory of back then if you were actually living in that time period. Leave your memory of the weather for your feelings about it when it happened and you might be able to use that in your story. You need to do more concrete research.

If you don’t something like the following could happen.

Supposing you are setting your story in August 2011 in Goderich, Ontario, Canada. You have been there many times in the past, but not since 2010. So, you write your story setting it in August 2011 in Goderich as you remember it with its centre of town set up in a square..

Hold it right here. On August 21, 2011 a big tornado hit Goderich, Ontario causing extensive damage to the downtown square and nearby houses. If you have your characters meeting at one of the shops there or even in a chase through the downtown square on that date or just after, but don’t factor in the tornado, oops.

A tornado can add to the suspense in your story, so consider including it.

But do your research first – online with old news stories.And if you don’t know what the weather was like on certain days of certain years, you can check with weather authorities (such as Environment Canada) for historical weather information about dates in the past. You don’t want to have a blizzard in late November in such-and-such year just north of Toronto when the weather was actually mild for the time and it rained the proverbially buckets.

There are many other time-related issues that factor into setting. I’ll cover a few more of them in a future post, but here’s one to think about and research.

Your characters are eating soup that came out of a can and the year is 1921. Did soup or any other foods come in cans in 1921? You need to do your research. And you can take that food area much further to what people actually ate in the your story’s time period and how they prepared and stored food and where and how they ate.

Setting covers much more than geographic location.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

 

 

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Being Dana – precautions when getting inside fiction characters

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Dana Bowman is the main character in Beyond Blood. Because some of the novel is told from her viewpoint in first person singular, I get inside her head a lot. Of course, Dana thinks it is her getting inside my head.

Could be.

That’s where fiction authors have to be somewhat careful. How much of what your character thinks, does and says is him or her and how much is you? While it is true that some of our quirks rub off on our characters, they are distinct “people” at least between the book covers or in e-books, and in your head.

Add to all this head business is my comedy skits where I actually become Dana Bowman. Again, have to make sure I’m channelling her, not me and she talks and acts as Dana, not Sharon. I try to use the black wig as my changing point.Black wig on I’m Dana; black wig off I’m me. And no, I don’t wear the wig when I’m writing – or as I am doing now – rewriting the next Beyond book.

This brings up something else I’m having to deal with. Without going into a lot of details, Dana suffers some sort of injury in the latest book. What happens has not exactly happened to me – yet. So, besides doing the medical research, to understand better what Dana is going through, I went back (in my mind) to similar injuries I have suffered. How did I react? How did I feel right after it happened? Later? Injury consequences.

Earlier this summer I was at an open garden held by a member of my garden club. I had never been to her place before and because we were encouraged to walk all over the property outside, I entered the property by walking on the front lawn. After seeing the garden in the backyard, asking questions, and talking to the garden’s owner and other club members, I decided to return home.

This time I left by the normal route out front – used the cement walkway to the public sidewalk.

Except when I got to the end of the walkway I lost my footing and went flying forward, landing on my front on the hard cement sidewalk and injuring my knee – big wide cut, bleeding.

Shock, was what I felt. And anger – although the latter was not directed at the culprit – yet. Many people helped me up and one fellow lined up my purse and hat which had fallen off. Many (included the owner) brought out some first aid stuff and one couple drove me home (it was a 10 minute walk but I wanted to get antiseptic on my knee before putting on the gauze and band-aids to hold the gauze in place as soon as possible. I was deathly afraid of infection (because I had been bitten by flying ants a couple of summers ago and the areas did get infected). After the cleanup at home I headed over to the drugstore for more band-aids and gauze.

Later, like the next day, I began to re-direct my anger – at the homeowner. The step was deeper than a curbside step (from sidewalk to road) and unseen – no handrails, so unless you were familiar with the area you would not know the step was there. I wanted to report the homeowner’s negligence to the City – there is probably a bylaw for something like this. But I decided that if my injury didn’t become infected I wouldn’t do that, but would have a serious “chat” with the homeowner next time I see her. The injury didn’t become infected although at one point it looked like it might be and I rushed over to the walk-in medical clinic near my place. I haven’t yet talked to the property owner, because I haven’t made it to any garden club events since then.

How does that translate to Dana and her situation? Well, the fall part, the shock at it happening, the loss of control and the fear afterwards – that’s what I can draw on. The rest for Dana has to be different because she does not fall down an unseen step. Also she is 27 years younger than me, so “seniors and falls” doesn’t come into play.

What happened to me gives me some idea of something bad physically happening, something that is unexpected and how Dana could feel.

So, if you can pull something out of your life that occurred to get the feelings at least, it can help you get inside your character’s head when he or she has something bad happen that is similar.

Now I just have to contend with Dana’s chattering inside my head.

Who is really in control here?

If you want a look at Dana Bowman as I see her (and others when I do a comedy skit), her picture is below. For more info on her check out my website book page. You can see what I look like (on my good days) at the top of this blog

And you can check out my author profile at amazon by clicking on the Beyond Blood book cover at the top.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Sharon A. Crawford channelling Dana Bowman from Beyond Blood

 

 

 

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