Monthly Archives: January 2015

Guest Alex Laybourne gives us the dirt on writing his novels

Alex Laybourne horror novelist

Alex Laybourne horror novelist

Today I welcome guest Alex Laybourne a prolific horror novelist (four novels published). Alex discusses the difficulties authors have nailing down how they write their novels. He has some interesting insights. Over to you Alex.

As a writer, one of the most common questions you will get asked, besides the insulting and impossible to answer to any degree of satisfaction question of, How many books have you sold, is undoubtedly going to be something directed at the way in which you approach the task at hand.

How do you write your novels?

Do you always know how your book is going to go?

How much preparation do you do for your characters?

Do these sound familiar?

These questions, while interesting to hear, because it means that the person you are talking to is interested in the process rather than the success, are often the hardest to answer. Twice at least.

I say this because it is, for more writers, impossible to give the same answer to these questions twice in a row. I don’t mean this in the sense of, I can’t remember the exact word for word answer I gave the last time but on a much more fundamental level. It is physically impossible to answer this question twice, giving the same themed response.

Why? Well, every book, every project is different. The story is different, the characters, unless you are writing a series, are going to be different. There will be a varied tone and style to their work, certainly for younger, or shall we say, less experienced, writers. For they are trying hard to find their voice, to find that natural tone.

I have now published four full length novels and four (currently unavailable) short story collections, and what worked for the first tale, did not work for the second.

This was a painful fact for me to learn, and it is something that every writer needs to experience for themselves before they understand the meaning behind it.

My first novel, Highway to Hell, I planned out in my head, chapter by chapter, for the most part, but for the sequel, I just couldn’t figure it out ahead of time. I tried, and deleted close to sixty thousand words after finding myself bored and fed up with the story. It turned out that this novel needed to be written ‘on the fly’. This was a frightening process, as I knew nothing, and as I wrote there were passages which I marked for the editing phase. I hated them, and they were out of place, or so it seemed. Then, suddenly, at the end of the book, I found myself linking back to these passages which suddenly not only made sense, but helped round off the tale perfectly.

My novel Diaries of the Damned was written in a similar way. Whereas my most recent novel, Blood of the Tainted was written following the basic storyline, I had in my head, and then the details and a sub plot were added during the re-write phase.

It is impossible to gauge, before you start putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys, as would be more apt in the modern world, how you should write the novel. You could write a wonderful plan, mapping out every conversation and plot point to fit every style guide and craft book you have read, but suddenly, you find yourself stuck. Your imagination has a flare and before you know it the book is going in a different direction.

It is hard not to fight this, not to try and stick to the routine that provided you such success the last time, but it is nature. It cannot be fought any more than we can fight the aging process. We can give it a good try, but ultimately we lose. Go with what your mind, what the natural writer inside of you is saying, and not what the real you wants to do.

Books are a part of us, the characters are part of who we are. They are friends, people who we learn about as we write. The best characters, like the best friendships, are not defined from the very beginning, but evolve naturally over time.

Think about your social interactions. How you behave at work, at home, down the pub with your friends. We do not operate on a single basis of interaction. We adapt as necessary based on where we are, who we are with. We are not denying who we are, but we are allowing the different components of who we are to shine when the time is right.

This is exactly how it works with writing. Whether you are writing standalone novels, a series, or short stories, even blog posts, such as this. The approach you take will vary, because each one will be using a different part of who you are as a writer as the dominant creative voice.

Embrace it, because it knows what it is doing. Once you accept this, two things will happen. Writing will become that much easier, because you know you are doing what is right, and the task of answering the questions mentioned above will become that much harder, for you will be more aware of the layers that run beneath it all.

Thanks for reading.

Alex Laybourne


Born and raised in the coastal English town Lowestoft, it should come as no surprise (to those that have the misfortune of knowing this place) that Alex Laybourne became a horror writer.

From an early age he attended schools which were at least 30 minutes’ drive away from his home, and so most of his free time was spent alone.

He claims to have been a writer as long as he can remember. With a wild and vivid imagination he finds it all too easy to just drift away into his own mind and explore the worlds he creates. It is a place where the conditions always seem to be just perfect for the cultivation of ideas, plots, scenes, characters and lines of dialogue

He is married and has four wonderful children; James, Logan, Ashleigh and Damon. His biggest dream for them is that they grow up, and spend their lives doing what makes them happy, whatever that is.

Cover of  Alex Laybourne's latest novel. Available on amazon. See link below

Cover of Alex Laybourne’s latest novel Blood of the Tainted.Available on amazon. See link below


Official website and blog site

Thanks Alex for your insights.



Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series – most recent Beyond Blood (Blue Denim Press, 2014).


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Taming Time to Write

Beyond Blood_Final EbookSometimes I would like to shoot the clock (figuratively speaking). Finding time to write (and I don’t mean writing for business purposes, including book promo), is something all authors have to deal with.

Of course, the clock is not to blame. The bottom line is there are too many things we have to deal with in our overly fast-paced world and squeezing in writing time is difficult. But we do have only 24 hours a day and it is up to us writers to sort out our time.

What is important to us and what isn’t?

Writing, obviously is one. But we can’t forget about the family, our health, the house problems, the computer problems and other problems that seem to land unwanted on our doorstep. So, for 2015 I ruthlessly pruned what I will do. I use a system of A’s, B’s, C’s and D’s which I found in a time management life balance book. It goes like this:

A –Have to do; want to do (e.g. writing).

B – Have to do; don’t want to do (e.g. dealing with house problems)

C – Don’t have to do; want to do (try new recipes each week)

D – Don’t have to do; don’t want to do (e.g. any dealings with the boarder I evicted last fall)
I also use three categories: delete (my favourite), delay, and do. So some of those items under B, in particular get put on hold. I am also trying to deal with one problem at a time.

For writing specifically, so far I have assigned Wednesday afternoons and Friday afternoons for writing the third book in my Beyond mystery fiction series. Once I get a better handle on some of my business administrative stuff, Wednesday mornings should also come open for other creative writing such as writing contest entries – which include personal essays as well as short stories. The other times in the day include doing client work (writing tutoring and teaching and editing), book promo and the like. Sometimes workshops and readings are set for “writing afternoons” – I honour those first and juggle the creative writing with “client time.”.

Weekends I try to leave for gardening (spring, summer, fall), family, friends, community events and the like, although I will do writing workshops, author readings and presentations and attend the odd writing conference that crop up on weekends.

During all time I keep my mind open for creative ideas for my stories and essays. Often when I am doing other stuff, the creative ideas pop in. Never ignore these –write them down, or enter on your tablet before you get back to whatever you were doing.

And the big time stealer – email? Unless I consider it urgent, I take from a few days to a week to reply. And when I do deal with email, I set the timer and when it rings I just finish the email I am currently writing.

Guess I use a combination of scheduling and being flexible. Whatever it takes to have time to be creative and just write.

Next week I have a guest blogger – Alex Laybourne, who is a prolific horror novel author with a number of books published. Alex will blog about how he writes. Stay tuned.


Sharon A. Crawford

For something completely different check out when I was interviewed about Beyond Blood and writing on radio station Northumberland 89.7 FM

All my TV interviews are posted on You Tube. Click on “Video” at the top right of this blog

Check out my website for more information about Beyond Blood and my writing workshops. Watch for updates.

The book cover at the top links to my author profile and my books.

E-copies are also available at my publisher’s website



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Getting the scene right in your story

Cover of Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press. Click for link to purchase e-copies

Cover of Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press.

When writing fiction it is not only important to make your characters and plot realistic, but you need to do the same with your setting. Especially when you combine the setting with your characters and plot. Especially in rooms. Especially in action scenes in rooms.

Remember, you may have the visual in your mind but the reader is reading words, not watching it on TV. Think of police mystery shows, such as Chicago PD where the police are entering a building in force. The characters don’t know what they will find inside – people or structure, but you can bet the writers and director do. It can mess things up if you have a setting that just doesn’t match up with what the characters are doing.

Let’s take that scene mentioned above. As a fiction author, you need to know if there are stairs inside, where they are, if any of them have defects or squeak, how big the rooms are, and what rooms there are and how many levels. Otherwise you might unintentionally have a scene akin to the Keystone Cops.

In Beyond Blood, I had somewhat tight quarters to play out the climax – a medium-sized yacht. I had to know what would be on board, its arrangement, if my characters would all fit and be able to move around as needed (I solved that one by not having them all in one place at once).

But before I did that I had to get on a yacht, so I did. I got a tour of a somewhat smaller yacht and asked the owner/sailor about the terminology. And I read books on the subject.

There is a certain amount of micro-managing by the author once you get your building rooms straightened out. You need to consider any windows, if they face the sun and at what point of day. Is it dark and rainy outside when your characters are inside? You can’t have a character come in out of pouring rain and when he or she is in the living room or an office have bright sunlight streaming through…unless it suddenly clears up.

Then there is the feasibility of your characters moving around in a room and what they can see while they are in action. For one scene in Beyond Blood, I actually stood up from my computer and tried to re-enact the scene to consider room corners and furniture (my desk substituted for the office desk) to see if it would work.

You can also draw room sketches and if you aren’t somewhat incompetent in Math, do the rooms to scale. No, I don’t do the latter. But I did go around in different areas, different cities and towns with my camera to find the perfect house that would work with the Attic Investigative Agency on the top floor for the fraternal twin PIs – Dana Bowman and Bast Overture. This house had to be at leastt 75 years old, three stories, with two balconies and a turret. I found the house in downtown London, Ontario. I believe it is used for offices now) near a park and snapped away. No, I didn’t go inside. I used my imagination and memories for the inside.

But that’s fodder for another post.



Sharon A. Crawford

For something completely different check out when I was interviewed about Beyond Blood and writing on radio station Northumberland 89.7 FM

All my TV interviews are posted on You Tube. Click on “Video” at the top right of this blog

Check out my website for more information about Beyond Blood and my writing workshops. I do update it.

The book cover at the top links to my Amazon author profile and my books. E-copies are also available at my publisher’s website


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Author interviews – learning from both sides of the fence

Cover of Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press. Click for link to purchase e-copies

Cover of Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press.

Interviewer. Interviewee. Authors can get to do both. Which do you like best?

Last week I sat on both sides of this author interview fence. I posted my review of Rene Natan’s The Woman in Black on this blog and included a short interview with Rene. She also interviewed me for a posting on her blog page and did a book review of Beyond Blood on Goodreads. This interviewing got me thinking about interviews I have done (many, many – around 30 years’ worth) when I was a journalist.

But I have a somewhat unique perspective from the interviewee’s seat. Granted, answers to interview questions for guest blog posts can be carefully thought out. But what about those where the answer has to be spontaneous – such as for most of the profiles and feature articles I wrote where it was either in person or by phone. (Disclaimer: some were via email and could be thought out). Often I would get “don’t print this” or “this is off the record” but you can’t do that when you are being interviewed in front of an audience or on TV. (although TV interviews can be edited).

The bottom line is I get a rush from being interviewed and interviewing other authors. But I also like public speaking and reading from my book in public. Maybe it’s the drama queen in me or perhaps I’m a frustrated actor, but I get in character when I read and when I speak about something I am passionate about – such as writing, I get carried away. And I hope I carry my audience away with me too.

So being interviewed on TV doesn’t faze me, at least not anymore. I never know what some of the questions will be or what I will come up with for answers. But I always pitch right in with an answer – even when the interviewer goes a bit off track as Hugh Reilly did when he interviewed me about Beyond the Tripping Point in fall 2012. He got into Canadian mystery series and British series so I answered his questions and then got it back to Beyond the Tripping Point.

Ditto for being interviewed by Tom Taylor for his cable TV program Writers & Readers. Instead of one 10-minute interview he sprung it on me that there would be a second one about my editing and writing career.

The one that almost threw me for a loop goes back 25 years or so when another journalist (broadcast and print) who was a former mayor of Aurora and I were on an Aurora Cable TV show. I was supposed to be interviewing him – which I did. Then he ended the first segment with “when we come back I’ll be interviewing Sharon about her writing and community work.” (paraphrased).

I had about 10 minutes to catch my breath and mentally change chairs.

At least I didn’t have to prepare questions for this part.

It went off okay, but I think it helped teach me to be spontaneous. So does doing interviews – because you can prepare questions but the interviewee (or subject as journalists call him or her) may go off on tangents, clam up or as one artist did, look at me with dismay when she saw my recorder.

I told her “this is for accuracy,” and she settled down.

Being as accurate as you can, in the moment, is part of the bottom line when interviewing authors (or anyone) or being interviewed as an author. The other important bottom line part is being yourself.

Oh, and if a TV interview, don’t wear white. It interferes with the lighting.

You can read Rene Natan’s interview of me at

Rene Natan’s book review of Beyond Blood is on Goodreads at

For something completely different check out when I was interviewed about Beyond Blood and writing on radio station Northumberland 89.7 FM

All my TV interviews are posted on You Tube. Click on “Video” at the top right of this blog

Check out my website for more information about Beyond Blood and my writing workshops. I do update it.

The book cover at the top links to my author profile and my books.



Sharon A. Crawford


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Sharon A. Crawford presents Rene Natan and The Woman in Black

Romance/suspense author Rene Natan

Romance/suspense author Rene Natan

As promised, here is a look at suspense/romance novelist Rene Natan and her writing, including my review of The Woman in Black


How do you come up with your novel ideas, particularly with The Woman in Black?


From events in my life, the life of a person close to me or from the news. When my house got destroyed, I felt a deep sense of disruption, almost of abandon. I tried to portray this feeling in my first novel, Mountains of Dawn. What triggered me to write The Woman in Black was the difficulty a police officer encounters when she had to impersonate a call girl


What is your process for writing a novel? Do you do an outline first? Rewriting and editing as well?


Normally I write an outline to start with. However this first outline changes as I go along, mostly around the first half of the novel. After that, the personas almost write their own story.


Why do you write suspense romance novels?


Love is the main force in life, being parental love, conjugal love, or forbidden love. I wouldn’t dare to write anything without SOME kind of love. Suspense is needed to keep the reader turning one page after the other. Will the two lovers get together? Would the abducted child be rescued? Would the police capture the sadistic killer? The writer is the deus ex machina; he can forge the characters to his liking and take the reader along, in a journey of emotional “high,” fun and anticipation.


Rene Natan Bio:


Rene Natan was first attracted by the myriad possibilities offered by computers and pursued a career in information technology. The desire of being a storyteller, however, never left her since plots kept taking shape in her mind. After following a number of online courses on fiction writing, she started to jot down her stories. The Blackpox Threat won the first prize in the 2012 Five Star Dragonfly Award and was one on the four finalists in the 2011 Indie Excellence Award competition.


Book Review:

Cover of The Woman in Black by Rene Natan

Cover of The Woman in Black by Rene Natan

The Woman in Black by Rene Nathan is a romantic suspense novel set in the fictitious town of Varlee, Ontario the end of 2000 and beginning of 2001.

Chief Detective Conrad Tormez has a lot on his mind. His mentally challenged teenage daughter has been missing for two years and he needs to nail the criminal gang causing havoc in Varlee. The latter requires going to the head of the gang. To find the gang’s leader, he takes advantage of something this criminal doesn’t know – his girlfriend Clara Moffat has just died in a vehicle accident. So he hires a former police officer and friend, Savina Thompson, to impersonate Clara and set up the next wealthy victim. Using a newly-designed voice emulation system and another friend, wealthy businessman Denis Tailllard, to play this victim, Tormez hopes to rid Varlee of the thieving gang. Despite Tormez’s various plans for possible scenarios, he cannot foresee everything.

For nothing is simple and anything that can go haywire does.

As the story unfolds, the characters, plot and subplot become connected. Natan uses a multi-layered approach that peels like the proverbial onion to constantly reveal something else unexpected. Just when you wonder why a piece of plot or another character appears, it soon becomes relevant and adds to the suspense. The events leading up to and including the climax will keep the reader on the edge. Warning: be careful if reading The Woman in Black on public transit or while walking down the street – you might miss your stop or bump into someone or something.

The complicated plot and many characters, at times can get a little overwhelming. But Natan‘s listing of characters and short chapters help keep the reader oriented.

If you like intrigue, The Woman in Black is for you. However, it might be wise to block some time to read it. As this reviewer discovered, reading it in chunks may not work as you will want to continue reading to see what happens next.

Reviewed by Sharon A. Crawford author of the Beyond mystery books – Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) and Beyond Blood (Blue Denim Press, 2014). See for info about Sharon’s books and social media links.


Partial list of Rene Natan’s published novels:


The Woman in Black, ebook, 2014, $2.95 US,

The Loves and Tribulations of Detective Stephen Carlton, ebook, 2014, $2.99 US,

Fleeting Visions, ebook, 2013, $3.75 US,

The Bricklayer, ebook, 2012, $2.64 US,

The Blackpox Threat, 2010, $4.27US,,

E-books can be purchased on (Kindle). The Bricklayer and The Blackpox Threat are also available as print on

Cheers and Happy New Year

Sharon A. Crawford

P.S. Rene Natan turns the tables on me when she interviews me at


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