Monthly Archives: October 2015

Transitioning the real into the reel (fiction)


Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Sometimes we go through tremendous ordeals in our lives. Often it is because of a big change – a death in the family, relationship breakup, personal illness, or being the victim of a crime.

Writing about it is often a way to heal and tell our story to others. A journal, personal essay or even a non-fiction article encompassing the ordeal is more fact, more actual with a story (and viewpoint included).

But what if you want to fictionalize it? Do you present details and people as they happened? Do you change people’s names and some details? How can you go about it?

Authors do it several ways. You do have to be concerned with libel – especially if the fiction is more fact than fiction. An author colleague is very particular here because she ran into libel issues a couple of times in the past – no libel involved, but it can scare you and serve as a warning.

Other authors use the “based on…” line.

Some write what they want and use the “Any resemblance to living persons, etc.” disclaimer.

I am a bit liberal about my approach. For the most part I sometimes take something from my life as a basis for a story – but the characters aren’t me or whomever else appeared and the story definitely is different. For example, in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point, one story deals with two female friends who have problems with a car brake that won’t work as they drive up to the cottage. This happened to a friend and I about 30 years ago. All my friend had to contend with was the brakes failing. She used the parking brake and we were in and out of gas stations looking for a bay to get the problem fixed. That’s where truth ends. What happens in “No Breaks” is well, crime fiction.

But I do up the ante sometimes if someone has really messed up with my life. When I told this story at a recent Crime Writers of Canada reading, I could just feel the other author mentioned above cringe. (I was looking at the audience, not her, so didn’t actually see her face).

There is a way to do this. One of the characters in one of my short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point is loosely based on this real-life person – only the age is in the same decade and I saw her features, her way of dressing in my mind. But from the minimal description I gave of her, she could be any person in that age bracket fitting that description. I kept her in the same work industry but a different job. Yes, she was one of the suspects, but I won’t tell you if she was the guilty one.

A bit of background here – the person (yes a family member) objected to me writing and getting published family stories as memoir but she said I could fictionalize any of it. So, I did a variation of that.

In Beyond Blood, a couple of characters, Detective Sergean tDonald  Fielding and Great Aunt Doris Bowman are loosely on people I have known – but none of them messed up my life. The first one I liked and the second one was an interesting person. Dana Bowman, my main character, is she based on me? Not exactly. For one thing she is 25 years younger than me. True, we are both short in stature, but I made her shorter, something she is a bit peeved about. Let’s just say Dana tends to boldly go where I just might not do so.

So, it is not all cut and dry about going from real to reel. Just consider that even when your fiction has nothing to do with real life, at least any you have experienced, read about or seen, there is always somebody who will insist that a character in your story is based on them.

Usually they are wrong. Perhaps they have a latent wish to be immortalized in some way.


Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available


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Crime Writers talk crime at Yorkville library tonight

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Crime can pay – at least between the book covers. Maybe not in big sales to make authors rich. But in authors connecting with each other and with readers.

That is set to happen this evening as four of us crime writers from Crime Writers of Canada – Rosemary Aubert, Robert J. Hoshowsky, Nate Hendley and me Sharon A Crawford will be talking about how we either create crime or tell it like it is. For the first time with me involved, there are two true crime reporters – Robert and Nate. Both write different aspects of true crime and both got into doing so in different ways.

On the fiction side, both Rosemary and I write series novels – hers is the award-winning Ellis Portal series. What’s interesting about Rosemary’s books is the first five were published by a large trade publisher, and at the beginning of this year she went with a small independent publisher.

I write the Beyond mystery series and am published by a small trade publisher – no awards yet, but I’m working on it.

Here are the details about the four of us and our presentation this evening.
Nate Hendley

Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based freelance writer and author of several books, primarily in the true-crime genre. Decades of Injustice, a hard-hitting look at the wrongful conviction case of Steven Truscott, is his latest book from a Canadian publisher. His website can be found at


Robert J. Hoshowsky

Robert J. Hoshowsky is the author of two True Crime books, including the Arthur Ellis-shortlisted The Last to Die: Ronald Turpin, Arthur Lucas, and the End of Capital Punishment in Canada and Unsolved: True Canadian Cold Cases, which inspired Macleans magazine to publish an entire special issue on famous murder cases. His extensive research on the last men executed in Canada has sparked an interest in the Lucas case, which is currently being investigated to determine if Lucas’ death sentence can be posthumously overturned, for the first time in Canadian history.


A former Researcher-Reporter at Macleans magazine, he has also contributed to top-rated television programs, including the Canadian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. His investigative work has been published in over 100 magazines and newspapers worldwide.


Much of Robert’s recent work can be found in Serial Killer Quarterly, where he has profiled such infamous murderers as Jeffrey Dahmer, Britain’s John Christie, Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, and Sheila Labarre.


Rosemary Aubert

Rosemary Aubert is the author of eighteen published books, the most recent being Don’t Forget You Love Me, the sixth in the acclaimed Ellis Portal mystery series, set in Toronto and featuring a formerly homeless judge and reluctant solver of murders. Rosemary is a popular teacher, presenter and mentor.


Sharon A. Crawford


Sharon A. Crawford, a former journalist, is a freelance memoir and fiction writer, writing consultant and instructor, and editor. Sharon is the author of the Beyond mystery series, the short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012), and her latest novel Beyond Blood (Blue Denim Press, Fall 2014). She teaches writing workshops for Toronto Library branches. She belongs to Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, The Toronto Heliconian Club and runs the East End Writers’ Group. Her hobbies: reading, walking and gardening act as catalysts for her next novel.

An Evening of Crime at the Yorkville Library

Thursday, Oct 22, 2015

6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Four Canadian crime writers read from their latest works: Rosemary Aubert, Sharon Crawford, Nate Hendley,and Robert J. Hoshowsky. Sharon Crawford will interview the panel and a question and answer period will follow.

No registration required.

Yorkville Library Branch (Program Room)
22 Yorkville Ave., Toronto, Ontario.

If you are in the area this evening, please drop in.

Meantime, I have to go over the questions I’m asking the panel and make sure I’m on the ball with my answers too.


Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available


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When readers relate to authors’ characters

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Dana Bowman, the main character in my Beyond mystery series is making herself known.

Another author who read Beyond Blood compared Dana’s situation as the mother of a lost son to a non-fiction book dealing with a mother losing her son. Mind you, David, Dana’s son is lost in the sense that he is kidnapped. But both mothers suffer anguish and go through much emotional turmoil.

Others have picked out Dana’s offbeat sense of humour and being a likeable character.

All indications that readers are identifying with Dana.

Getting readers to identify with your novel’s characters – main character in particular, but also the other characters is one of the challenges for writers. But no matter what the fiction genre readers want more than just a good plot – they want to connect with your characters. Perhaps the daytime soap operas or the old night time TV soaps started this. However, even other TV series, police, etc. have a running thread for each character.

If readers can’t identify with your characters, you will lose them. They won’t enjoy your book as much or at all and may give up on it.

So what makes fiction characters compelling?

Liking the character isn’t absolutely necessary, but remember that most people are not all good or all bad. And even so-called good characters can come across as somewhat off. Maybe they are too good-two shoes. Maybe they are too superficial. The dreaded wooden characters.

So, in a nutshell, you have to make your characters compelling – by making them three dimensional – with dialogue, their inner thoughts, and their actions. You need to compel the reader to get under the character’s skin and if not emphasize with them, at least be with them.

Besides your novel’s characters getting a mention from readers, another good sign of compelling characters ix when readers read they want to find out what happens to the main character because they care. When they sense something terrible is going to happen to a character they keep reading, hoping both that it won’t happen and that it will. And when it does, they feel right with the character and read on to see if the character can come through the situation.

Of course, some of this is plot. But these days you really can’t have one without the other.

Besides my Beyond books, read fiction by Peter Robinson, Rosemary McCracken, Rosemary Aubert and Maureen Jennings to name a few.

And happy reading.


Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available;

And check my updated Gigs and Blog Tours for a presentation with other Crime Writers of Canada authors on October 22, 2015



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Don’t rush your writing

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

We writers all seem to have deadlines with writing our novels or short stories. Sometimes it is the publisher’s deadline, sometimes our own. So we fret and hurry through writes and rewrites and maybe don’t write our best.

Last Saturday I had a heart-to-heart talk with the acquisitions editor at Blue Denim Press (publisher of my Beyond mystery books). Shane had a big piece of advice – Don’t rush the writing.

If you rush it, you’ll miss things, make errors and your writing will come across as hurried. This is mostly me speaking, but including some of what Shane and I discussed. Note: Shane is also a published fiction author. Both of us have missed things because of writing in too much of a hurry. His error is his business, but it was caught in time before all print copies of his new novel In the Shadow of the Conquistador were done for the book launch, etc.

I’ll tell you my stupid error – it is in the current Beyond book (third in the series), I am writing – apparently too fast because of time constraints (too much else going on in my life – the writing, editing and instructing business, health, house, social, etc.) Anyway for  those familiar with my Beyond books, they are set in the late 1990s, although this third one gets my fraternal twin PIs, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture into the beginning or 2000.

Which is neither here nor there with my writing error. In one scene Bast goes to the Toronto Reference Library to look up old addresses in the Toronto Might Street Directory. So, I had him go to the library’s former address – now the University of Toronto Bookstore. Why? I had done research there and for some reason the decade  that I did so got lost in my brain, so hence my date mixup.

I had gone there in the early 1970s. Bast went to the Toronto Reference Library in late 1999. This newer (and current) TRL location opened in 1977. My error arrived in my brain weeks after writing it, as often happens when not actually writing. You can bet I made the change next time I turned on the computer.

That is only one of the many things that can suffer if you write too fast. Try to pace yourself and make more time for your writing – either in the time spent each day/week or the whole time (months/years) spent.

If you do that, when your publisher accepts your manuscript and you sign that contract, you won’t have to worry so much when the publisher suggests some changes.

And often publishers have tight deadlines.

I am constantly trying to prioritize my life – including dumping things, saying “no” more often and putting some people and things on hold.  Still an uphill battle, but I try. And I need to try to relax more.


Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available


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Book Promo trick learned at festival and library

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

It has been a hectic few days with my Beyond Books at two booths (not during the same hour) at Word on the Street last Sunday and Tuesday evening at the Runnymede Toronto Public Library Branch.

Very interesting – great to meet readers and other writers and chat. And I also learned and applied a new sales technique (new to me) that worked, so much so that I have to order more copies of my first published Beyond book – Beyond the Tripping Point from my publisher and he in turn has to order more from the distributor. This book was published three years ago. And we’re talking print copies, not e-copies. So there is still steam in the “old” book and the “old” book copy option.

So what happened?

I’ve been attending the Word on the Street Festival, Toronto version almost every year since it began, often selling books or passing out info about writers’ organizations or both. This year it changed venue for the third time.This year it was at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre beside Lake Ontario. It was a hot summer day (yes, I know it is fall), sunny and very pleasant. So were most of the people there and the venue setup – closer together and also specific areas to sit and rest your feet and your a.. well you know what.

At WOTS I had an hour each at two booths selling Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point as well as handing out business cards and flyers for two more of the venues I would be at this fall, and chatting about my books with people who pass by. Very important. You don’t just sit there and smile because not everyone is going to stop unless you approach them. “Do you read mystery novels?” became my ice-breaker and if the answer was “yes” (about two-thirds to three-quarters of the time), I was off talking about my Beyond books and holding up copies as I talked. I was at the Crime Writers of Canada booth first and then Toronto Sisters in Crime. Despite the crowded quarters of the latter (in a booth at extended tables with other writing organizations). Space was so limited the poets reading had to stand on a table at their end. That was also where anyone going to sit behind any of the tables had to enter the area. Sisters in Crime had their booth at the other end. So if I didn’t want to hop the table to get out and chat, I had to maneuver over to the other end, avoid the poet on the table, slither out and walk to the end where I stood and chatted.

I was selling both books as two for one price (and made sure I had the individual prices listed on my price sheet to show the difference). That worked for sales, including to a lady who said she had to run into the building behind to the ATM and would I be there? Of course, I would.

During all this I was trying to find and keep track of two old friends (who didn’t know each other at that point). One found me over at the Crime Writers booth but the other didn’t find me until the end of my stint at Sisters in Crime. But both kept busy going to booths, chatting and collecting info. The latter friend got steered to me by another mystery writer the friend had seen and heard at a previous Crime Writers of Canada library reading.

Which brings me to Runnymede library branch and Tuesday night. Despite rain, we got a good number of readers who filled the library program room. And it was one of the better author presentations by some of us from Crime Writers of Canada – Rob Brunet, Karen Blake-Hall, Madeleine Harris Callway and me. We talked about our books, often putting in humour, telling stories of how we got our stories settings, how we got our stories, did a little reading from our books and then opened it to questions.

It was really like chatting with old and new friends.

And yes, I sold more books – the package deal again and was really rewarded more by one author purchasing when she said “I really like your writing.” Mind you she has attended some of my writing workshops at library branches and I probably read something I had written there.

So, what’s the morale here to promote books? Get involved with your audience, entertain, and offer good deals with your books.


Sharon A. Crawford

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection. Click on it for publisher's website


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