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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Crime wave hits Gerrard Ashdale library March 24

Longshot of the Gerrard Ashdale library CWC presentation

Longshot of the Gerrard Ashdale library CWC presentation

At 6.30 p.m., March 24, 2016 an unusual crime wave hit the Gerrard Ashdale branch of the Toronto Public Library. Downstairs, the dead body outline was “drawn” with masking tape. Upstairs, “crime” was in progress – at least between the book covers, and expanding to the audience facing the five crime writers in the front.

For the next hour and a half, true crime writers Mark Eddy and Nate Hendley and crime fiction authors Lisa de Nikolits, Steve Shrott and Sharon A. Crawford (also moderating to keep the crime enthusiasts on track) discussed various aspects of crime writing and reading – from authors’ and readers’ view points.

Besides the why we write what we do (Lisa and I have social justice as our reasons and Mark Eddy, author of The Recent History of Terrorism in Canada 1963 -2013, wrote that book because Canadian literature didn’t have this history published). We also discussed where we get our ideas. For example, many of mine come from real life incidents such as a harrowing drive up Highway 11 to cottage country with a friend when her car brakes stopped working. I take the incident and fictionalize the characters and plot.

But one of the most interesting discussions was in answer to the question:

What is your take on novel or true crime endings, i.e., should you leave the reader hanging or have a resolution that ties up the book’s contents?

Some wanted a full resolution, but some were okay with a resolution for the main plot, but some of the issues with the characters could be left hanging, especially for series novels. Nate Hendley, who (among other true crime books) wrote Steven Truscott; Decades of Injustice about Steven Truscott (who was wrongfully convicted of murder and rape at age 14,in 1959), was pleased that he could put in his book that in 2007 the Ontario Court of Appeal declared Truscott acquitted of the rape and murder of Lynn Harper. That declaration was the result of Truscott himself filing an application for this in 2001. Justice moves slow. In fiction, that can happen faster.

The five of us authors in the hot seats also discussed unusual ways we promote our books. For example, Nate Hendley had copies of his Truscott book at a presentation of a play about Truscott in southwestern Ontario. I dress up as my main Beyond Blood character, Dana Bowman and do short skits where Dana disses me. See my website for where Dana will next appear.

Meantime, here’s another photo of the CWC gang up close at Gerrard Ashdale. Both photos were taken by the library branch’s head librarian, Gail Ferguson.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The CWC gang up close - Sharon, Steve Shrott, Nate Hendley, Lisa deNikolits, Mark Eddy

CWC gang up close – Sharon, Steve Shrott, Nate Hendley ,Lisa de Nikolits, Mark Eddy

 

 

 

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Picture it to kick-start your story

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

I teach a memoir writing workshop called Writing Your Memoir from Pictures. Participants look at old family photos, old newspaper stories, old ads to bring their minds back to their past. From there they start writing part of their memoir, perhaps even the beginning.

A variation of this could be done to get you going writing fiction or to help you create a scene in your story.

Let’s consider a photo of a family member or friend – whether in print or digital. Or even a photo posted online of someone you don’t know. Maybe you are having a hard time visualizing what your character looks like. Or maybe you have some idea but are having problems describing the character. Looking at a picture can trigger some ideas. I’m not saying you should make your character an exact copy, but images can get ideas swirling.

If your story is set in the not-too-distant past, maybe up to 150 years ago, old newspaper photographs, and ads especially can help you get ideas of how society lived at that time. Sure, newspaper stories back then, can tell you that. However, just looking at pictures and letting your mind absorb them, can help you create that scene in a town set in the 1950s or during one of the world wars or another time – whatever your story dictates.

Picture it and let your mind absorb. Then let your imagination loose.

You know what they say about a picture being worth a thousand words.

Cheers.

Sharon

If you click on the book cover at the top, it will take you to one place where my Beyond books area available

 

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Making your fiction characters sick

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

I’ve talked before about giving your fiction characters tags such as jangling keys in their pocket or going silent when someone starts arguing with them. These tags show character traits and help the reader connect better with them. The first trait mentioned might occur when the character is impatient and the second opens a lot of things the author can show about the character. It might be as simple as the character hates arguing but he or she might be afraid to speak up when challenged. Both those bring up the question “Why?” in the reader’s mind. And give the author leeway to build his or her character.

Another trait that can be used is health issues – good or bad. Maybe you want your character to be an extreme fitness buff. Maybe he is passionate about playing golf. But the flip side of the coin can present even more interesting character tags – the character’s illness or an injury – the latter maybe occurring during the story. For example, the late Robert Parker in one of his Spencer novels had Spencer get shot in the chest and part of the novel dealt with his recovery and how it affected him both professionally and personally.

In my Beyond novel, Beyond Blood, I give Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding an affliction no one really wants – migraines. I know of where I write here because when I was in my early 30s (back in the grey ages, of course), I had migraines with almost the whole enchilada in symptoms. Didn’t have the aura but I did get sick to my stomach and of course the pain. And lots of treatments were tried and not all worked or were only temporary. Then there was the personal and professional repercussions. I had to postpone story interviews with subjects because I had a migraine, and one of the treatment options – blowing in a brown bag, supposedly to stop the pain (it didn’t work), was done around the kitchen table during a big party I held. My girlfriend who suggested that was coaching me and there were some onlookers around the table.

Which gave me lots of options for Fielding, I combined my personal experience with imagination for his migraine attack. Not a party, not a kitchen, but in the main character Dana Bowman’s bedroom. That’s all I’ll say about that scene except the cause of the migraine was the same as many of mine were – stress.

So you can use your personal health experience for one of your characters in your novel or short story. Just make sure it is worked into the plot and isn’t a tangent. And yes, Fielding’s migraine incident was part of the plot. Also, it could be a friend’s illness, but just make sure if the illness is yours or your friend’s that the character doesn’t turn into a copy of you or your friend. Use the illness as a character tag.

And next Thursday, March 24, I’ll be joining four other Crime Writers of Canada authors for a lively panel discussion and q and a about what and how we write. Here are the details:

Murder and Mayhem between the (book covers) at Gerrard/Ashdale library branch

March 24, 2016

Join five Crime Writers of Canada authors Sharon A. Crawford, Steve Shrott, Lisa de Nikolits (three mystery novelists) and Mark Eddy and Nate Hendley (both true crime authors) for a lively discussion about crime writing and their books. Sharon moderates this panel and the authors just might read a bit from their books. More information.

Location: Gerrard/Ashdale Toronto Public Library branch

1432 Gerrard St. E., Toronto

Time and Date: 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

Cheers.

Sharon

If you click on the book cover at the top, it will take you to one place where my Beyond books area available.

 

 

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Beyond book character taking over my life?

Sharon A. Crawford channelling Dana Bowman from Beyond Blood

Dana Bowman, the main character in my Beyond mystery series is taking over my life – both professional and maybe some personal. Considering all the bad things that have been happening in my personal life lately (and no ramble on that here), maybe that’s a good thing.

It all started back at the book launch of Beyond Blood October 19, 2014. The editor at my publisher’s, Shane, suggested that the other mystery author, Klaus Jakelski, launching a mystery novel Dead Wrong and I do a brief skit. He also gave the criteria – we would be our main characters and the skit would be a mock-up of a scene in his novel. Klaus’ character would be waiting to meet a broadcaster and instead gets Dana Bowman, PI, but friend of his book’s broadcast character. Shane had to talk Klaus into doing this, but once Klaus agreed, he came up with a good short script.

The short skit went off okay, although I kept sneaking looks at the script, hidden in one of Dana’s props – her large sketchpad.

But it gave me courage to do future skits. This time as it was only me then, I did a 10-minute improv – no actual script, just a list of what I wanted to cover as Dana dissed her author (me). And lots of practice plus filling my mind with the skit in the hours before showtime. It went over well here at my East End Writer’s Group 15th anniversary presentation. One comment afterwards was it was great, like the character just jumping out of the book (this is a guy very critical of others’ writing). And another author who has acting experience said it was good, but she suggested not having the character do any actual reading from the book as it lowered the energy level.

Fair enough. I’ve done variations of the skit twice since then and seemed to actually fool one person in the audience. When I returned into the room, dressed back as Sharon, he commented “Oh, you’re back.” I know I wear a black wig, cap and sunglasses, but… you can check out Dana’s photo at the top and see what you think. The next skit was at a Syrian Refugee fundraiser in early December. I was overtired then and didn’t think Dana was up to her usual. But one person in the audience thought it was great.

Have I found a new calling in my old age? One that combines as book promo? I’m scheduled to do a 10-minute skit May 28 at the Toronto Heliconian club during Toronto’s big annual Doors Open event. And for the rest of the afternoon I’m there volunteering, I’ll be dressed up as Dana. A couple more Dana appearances are in the works, one with another person who has acting experience.

Methinks I need a bit of training in improv. Off to Bad Dog Theatre mini-workshop at least, next month.

Dana is also inhibiting my mind with novel plots, etc. But that’s another story. Check out the Gigs and Blurbs page connected with this blog and my website  There will be a new  better-designed website (same address) hopefully the end of this month/early April. My son, the computer whiz and I are working on it.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series. Click on book cover to see where book is available.

 

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Turning personal tragedy into fiction

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

A wounded deer leaps the highest.
– Emily Dickinson

We all have personal tragedies in our life, whether it is losing a family member or close friend to disease, “natural” disaster, unnatural disaster such as war, accident or murder. Unfortunately these are now all part of living. We may also be carrying emotional baggage from our past. Sometimes these life tragedies can dig deep within our psyche. But, we writers have a bonus here to help us heal. We can write about it.

If memoir or personal essay is too personal, then  we can fictionalize the tragedy. Let me give you an example. As a child I was bullied by a teacher, a nun. So I’ve taken that experience, changed it to much worse and have a character in my most recent Beyond mystery loosely based on this nun. But I haven’t written fact. Instead I did the “what if:? scenario. What if one of my main characters was assaulted by a nun as a child and the nun surfaces in her adult life? How does she deal with it?

And the nun, what could be her story? Why is she the way she is. In my real life, I have no idea, so I fabricated a background of childhood torment and how does this affect the nun as an adult? The timeline for the story is different as my Beyond books are set in the late 1990s. And of course, the name of the nun is different. For one thing, in the late 1990s nuns weren’t using saint names, but their own names. So I made up a “real” name for this nun character

You can get the picture. Don’t write your story (unless it is memoir) but fabricate it into a fictional story that is part of your plot.

You may come up with something very creative and there may be a bonus – it might help you work through this piece of baggage you have been carrying around, often buried so deep you don’t realize it.

It’s worth a try.

On a recent personal note, I am dealing with a personal tragedy – a close friend died of lung cancer last month. She was only 51. Her memorial is Saturday afternoon. After that, I will need to follow my own advice.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

If you click on the book cover at the top it will take you to my publisher’s page about my books and my background.

 

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