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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Make Writing regularly a 2017 goal

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

If you’ve been struggling to write that novel, short story, novella, etc. because you don’t seem to have time because other stuff to do is taking over your, life, whatever the reason, 2017 is coming in. Time for a fresh start.

Forget about “New Year’s Resolutions” which go down the drain after the first few weeks. Instead think goal, yes that’s singular. And make that goal to write on a regular basis in 2017.

For parts of 2016 I have struggled to find time to get at rewriting my third Beyond novel. The editor at my publisher’s (bless his soul) has given me a couple of extensions. But he is not the problem and I have to find a solution – make that several solutions to deal with the multitude of impediments that come at me “from outside.”

Just to clarify, “from outside” doesn’t mean things like sleeping in, too much socializing to name a few. Mine also include: gardening (in spring to fall, not now in horrible winter), doing client work (editing and teaching writing workshops and courses), and promoting my first two Beyond mystery books.Those things in the previous sentence I don’t begrudge doing and they are under my control and it is my business to get them in order so I do have time to write.

I’m talking about what just seems to come out of the blue at you. Some of mine are unforeseen health issues, house and property issues and weather (which often affects the house and property). It is true we just had Christmas and Boxing Day and I spent Christmas with my son and his girlfriend and Boxing Day just relaxing reading and phoning friends. What I did on those two days was my choice.

Most of the first half of my day today was not. I do a daily “to-do” list for what I call “Biz” and another for what I call “Other.” Unfortunately, like this morning, the “other” took over.

First there was the snow that came overnight. I had watched the Weather Network last evening and my “Other” schedule had up to one hour for shovelling the white shit that fell down. And I did it in that time.

Then things went wrong. The main time-stealer was the heating cable. I went to plug it in to melt the snow off the roof and discovered the cord just before going into the plug was suddenly frayed.And it got that way because it is a tight squeeze and turn to get it into the outside electric outlet. I taped it with electrical tape, then called my neighbour, a retired electrician, over to check to see I had done it right. He wouldn’t touch it, and instead gave me a long rant about he wouldn’t even check it because of liability, etc. The cord got frayed in the first place because my regular handyman (electrical stuff is one of his specialties) didn’t do anything about the short cord – didn’t even put it on a heavy-duty extension cord which my neighbour at least suggested. To make a long story short, I took my shortest heavy duty outdoor extension cord and found the plug from the heating cable wouldn’t go all the way in. I called the handyman and blasted him – he should have done it right first and I’ll pay for any new parts, but not labour. He is coming by later today or tomorrow morning to check it out.I made sure he knew I had expensive dental surgery coming up in January.

So, the bottom line is I have to come up with some way of dealing with all these outside problems that come at me unexpectedly. A year ago, I started dealing with all the health issues, one month at a time for each – even if I had to repeat this a few months down the road. I’m not sure about house and property things – certainly if not emergency issues they can be paced out per month based on time and money available (double hah-hah here).

Because I am fed-up with all this stuff getting in the way of my writing. (There’s a story there). I think the important thing is to figure out what is important. Staying healthy, of course, but when it gets beyond eating healthy, taking supplements, regular exercise (walking and gardening for me), getting enough sleep, and relaxing, then it is too much.

I may have found a way beyond the one medical issue per month – my writing is important for me to stay healthy. It is creative; it makes me feel good and relaxed. And it gets me out of the crap taking over my life. So it needs my time.

Perhaps, putting writing in one of your daily living categories, will get you writing regularly. Remember “regularly” will differ with each of us. If you have a full time job and/or raising a family/looking after an elderly parent, you will have a different regular schedule than I do. The trick is to look at what is taking over too much of your time, see where you can cut back and/or get help, and work in some time – whether it is two hours in the evening and/or Saturday and Sunday mornings – that is up to you. You also need to consider if some of the things you do are really necessary. For example, do you have to spend so many hours tweeting? Or even doing email. Shopping online or in bricks and mortars? If something is taking a lot of your time, that’s a clue to look at it closely.

And  tell family members and friends (remember, socializing takes up time, too) what you are doing and why – nicely. You have the best reason to do so now – a new year and a new goal. And think of the result – that novel finally underway, those short stories written, etc.

Good luck and may you write, write, write in 2017.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Click on either Beyond Blood at the top or Beyond the Tripping Point below to link to more information about the books. Hopefully later next year the third Beyond book will join them.

 

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

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Beyond Blood characters celebrate Christmas

Dana Bowman digging in her bag for Christmas presents?

Dana Bowman digging in her bag for Christmas presents?

Christmas is near and fraternal twins and private investigators Dana Bowman and Bast Overture, along with Dana’s seven-year old son David are gearing up for the big C – Christmas. But as we all know and have experienced, Christmas doesn’t usually go as planned.

Scene: Christmas Eve in the Bowman/Overture household.

Dana; Okay, David that’s enough peeking under the tree. Bedtime.

David: Aw, Mommy…

Dana: Come on, upstairs to bed so Santa can come down the chimney and surprise you with toys.

David: I want to surprise him and say “hello” and “thank you” when he arrives.

Bast comes into the living room: And help him eat the cookies too.
David: No, Uncle Bast. Well, maybe if he can’t eat them all. He is kind of fat you know.

David moves over to the mantle, gets down on his hands and knees and peers up the chimney.

Dana: David, what are you doing?

David: Checking to see if Santa can make it down the chimney or get stuck.

Dana: Really, David. That is part of the magic of Christmas.- Santa can always get in but you have to go to bed first or he won’t come.

David: But Mommy, I’m really worried he won’t be able to get down our chimney.

Dana, throws up her arms: David, he will get in.

Bast, goes over to David and crouches down to his level: Okay, David, looks like we’ll have to let you in on a little secret. If for some reason, and I’m just saying “if” Santa can’t make it down the chimney, we always leave the front door unlocked so he can come in that way.

Dana: Bast? Safety.

Bast: Shh.

David: Okay, Uncle Bast. Let’s unlock the door then?

Bast: Already done.

David: Can I just check? It might be stuck.

Bast looks at Dana and shrugs. Dana nods.

Bast: Okay, but then it’s up to bed with you. Promise.

David: I promise.

There is a knock on the door.

David jumps up: It’s Santa. He’s early.

All three rush to the door. Dana checks the small window.

Dana: Oh, no. And it is definitely not Santa. I guess we’ll have to let her in. Well, folks we have an extra Christmas guest, it seems.

Dana opens the door: Hello, Great Aunt Doris. I thought you would be spending Christmas with you nephew, Ron.

Doris: He seems to have plans, although he didn’t tell me what they are.

Bast: Well, I guess you better come in.

Doris: Hmm, still here, I see. I thought you would have moved out by now. This is the Bowman family home and should be Ron’s.

Dana: Now, Aunt Doris, you are quite welcome to spend Christmas with us but you have to be civil to us.

David: What’s civil?

Doris: Hello David, Merry Christmas. I guess we better do as your mother says and be nice to each other – that’s what civil means. After all it is Christmas.

Doris enters the house. Bast takes her coat and hat and puts them in the closet. Dana shrugs her shoulders and whispers: What else could I do.

David: Don’t lock the door. We leave it unlocked for Santa.

Doris: Young man, doesn’t Santa come down the chimney?

David: He’s fat and might get stuck.

Doris: Oh, I see. Good thinking, young man.

There is another knock at the door,

David: It’s Santa, this time.

David beats them all to the door and pulls it open. On the steps stands a young man in jeans, windbreaker and a toque. In his hand he holds a bunch of wrapped presents.

David: Daddy. You made it for Christmas.

Ron: Well, that is what you and I planned.

Dana groans. Bast sighs. Aunt Doris smiles and says, Merry Christmas. Now this family is all together for Christmas.

tree05

We will leave the Bowman/Overture family to celebrate Christmas, keeping in mind Dana and Ron are divorced. Ron has been an absent father. Aunt Doris doesn’t like Bast because he is gay. And Aunt Doris has a bad habit of not only landing on Dana’s doorstep uninvited, but she tends to stay and stay and stay.

If you want to read more about another of Aunt Doris’ never-ending visits amidst murder and other nasty deeds, you an read about it all in my latest Beyond mystery, the novel Beyond Blood. The link to info about that is on the book cover below.

And on behalf of Dana and the Beyond gang and me, too, I want to wish all of you a joyful and peaceful (as much as possible) holiday season however you spend it.

Just make sure Santa doesn’t get stuck in your chimney.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing the right story beginning

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

If you have ever started to read a novel and became bored by the end of paragraph one, it might not be that the story is dull. There is a good chance that what you are reading isn’t really the story’s beginning.

One story beginning, particularly with novels, that has me yawning is the big character background story. Or the big travelogue of a city or a town. As my old journalist and creative writing instructor would say, “So what?”

You can start with character or setting or both together. The trick is to bring in something about your story. Something that will grab your reader. You need a good lead (or “lede” as it is sometimes spelled), as we old journalists call it.

I was a freelance journalist for 35 years and writing a good lead for my articles was very important. Otherwise it was impossible to write the rest of the story. The lead lets the reader know something about what the story is going to cover and teases them in to read all the details.

So when I write fiction or edit other authors’ fiction, I always pay attention to the lead. Sometimes the lead is hidden a few pages later or even a few chapters later. One author’s novel’s actual lead was a chapter near the middle. She needed to pull out that chapter and a few after it and bring them to the front. And then do some rewriting.

Rewriting, of course, is always necessary when writing fiction and ho-hum leads can be fixed then.

Off the top of my head here is an example of a bad story beginning.It is made up and not from any client’s fiction or any of mine.

Ellen was born in 1960 in the town of Crystal, the third in a family of four siblings. Her mother was an Osborne before her marriage to James Clark. She was a shy child who didn’t say much in school but she always got good grades. Her mother was also quiet and her father spoke in a loud boisterous voice. Ellen’s two older siblings, Daniel and Robert, teased her. Her younger sibling, Gail got on better with her brothers.

And on and on ad nauseum.

Do we really care about Ellen and her family?

Let’s see what we can do with that beginning – if we want to get some family background in and make it relevant to the story. If we want to make the reader care about Ellen and her family and read on. Something like this:.

Ellen Clark had always been shy and withdrawn. Until now. If her older brothers, Danny and Robbie, could see her now, they would be sorry they spent her childhood teasing her. They would be proud of her for what she just did for them, for her, and for the rest of the family. Especially Gail. Poor Gail. Best friends with Danny and Robbie had not helped Gail.

Ellen smiled as she looked down at her feet and what lay there.

Or something like that. Hey, I write mystery fiction. Anyway, let’s compare the two story beginnings. We still have Ellen, her shyness, her two brothers and the fact that they teased her and her sister Gail hanging out with the two brothers. We don’t mention Ellen’s birthday year or the town,  or her parents names or their main traits. That can come later. We have woven in a few things to tease the reader in. What did Ellen do just now? How did she go from being shy and withdraw to taking some kind of action. And what about Gail or the parents? What is lying at Ellen’s feet? Or should that be “who”?

This is the type of lead to draw in the reader. Even if you are not writing a mystery, a story needs some suspense, which could  very well be about the relationships in that Clark family. Or it could be something else – whatever your imagination conjures up.

I’ll end with the beginning of one of the short stories in my mystery collection Beyond the Tripping Point as it does have some family background woven into it. And I’ve used another technique to start the story and then pushed into the family background.

“The police can’t find her, Ms. Bowman,” Robin Morgrave says.

Rosemary Morgrave has gone missing and I’m putting on a brave smile for her twin brother. Robin sat on the other side of the desk in The Attic Agency’s third floor office. Only my twin brother, Bast, nodding, stops me from losing it. Ever since David, my seven-year-old son, was abducted last August, I’ve been living in Panicville.Sure, we got him back, but how much of him returned? He follows  Bast around like an investigator-in-training. His brown eyes stare right through my soul.I wish he’d just say how he feels. But since his return, David hasn’t opened his mouth except ti swallow liquids and food. He doesn’t even cry. (Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright Sharon A. Crawford, published  by Blue Denim Press, 2012).

You can pick it apart and try to guess what will happen in the story. Or you can read it. If you click on the BTTP icon at the top of this post, it takes you to my Amazon profile as well as to information about Beyond the Tripping Point and the novel (with the same three characters) Beyond Blood.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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Writers in Residence can help authors

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

If you are writing a novel, a short story or anything else and you want some outside feedback, consider consulting a Writer in Residence. Writers in Residence are all over – with writing groups, libraries and art clubs to name a few. Sometimes you have to be a club or organization member to talk to a writer in residence. However, usually with a library-based Writer in Residence you don’t.

I have been a writer in residence – not for a library (not yet anyway) but for the Canadian Authors Association, Toronto branch – twice – 2001 to 2003 and 2009 to 2014. So I can see this from both sides of the writing fence.

From the WiR side of the fence I have done one-on-one consultations with writers – in person, by email and on the phone. I have edited and/or evaluated a few pages of their manuscripts and had lively conversations about their marketing their stories or novel, for example. For the in-person consultations, we have met in my home office and in libraries. Yes, libraries, but not connected to library WiR. This was the CAA Toronto chapter appointment  – the earlier one.Before the regular meeting in the library auditorium, I would be available for half an hour or so for anyone who wanted to talk to me about their writing or have me take a look at something they had written. If it was a per-arranged appointment, often we met in the Food Court as this library is in a mall. And at the beginning of the CAA branch meeting, I would say a few words (up to five minutes) on some aspects of writing – writing tips. I found the whole experience very satisfying as I could help other writers and I also learned a lot from them. It’s a two-way street..

Writers-in-Residence sometimes are paid – it depends on the organization. CAA Toronto paid me, although each residency had a different payment setup.

Toronto Public Library writers in residence are paid quite well and so they should be with all they have to do. This includes spending some time in a room set aside for them a the library branch – usually one of the largest branches. They can do some of their own work, but they also use the room to consult with writers – usually for half an hour. Writers can get in to see the WiR by submitting a 20-page manuscript to the library branch at the beginning of the residency and then the library gives them an appointment time and day. This does not cost the writer anything.

Currently the Toronto Reference Library is looking for a Writer in Residence for spring 2018. This means that the twice yearly (spring and fall) WiR sessions are full for 2017. Obviously with it being December and the Christmas season, the fall 2016 WiR session is over. But here is a list of criteria for the library’s WiR

Eligibility Criteria

:

Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada

 

Minimum of two books in print, published by a professional publishing house, at least one of which is a memoir

 

Active in the writing profession; active online presence

 

Experience in teaching creative writing

 

Understanding of the needs of aspiring writers

 

Experience developing and delivering programs, workshops, readings

 

Working on or planning to work on a new project intended for

book-length publication.

 

That’s just it in a nutshell. And yes, I have consulted with Writers in Residence before – both with the Toronto Library and with the Toronto Heliconian Club Literature Section – of which I am a member. I have had line by line edits and comments in person, the writer pre-reading the manuscript pages and commenting on it when we met. These occasions turned into lively discussions and I learned a lot. Not only  possible changes in my manuscript but encouragement to continue writing for publication. Only once did I consult with a library WiR who didn’t resonate with my manuscript. Despite the criteria for WiR listed above, this author did not have memoir-writing experience and I had submitted 20 pages from my memoir-in-the works. So, he just didn’t get it. However, he is an accomplished and published literary fiction author so I am sure he helped many writers writing in that genre. That was a few years ago anyway.

 

So, wherever you live I urge you to find a writer in residence and make an appointment with them for whatever your writing concerns are – writing or marketing.

 

And the usual, click on the Beyond Blood graphic at the top to go to my author profile and books and where to purchase. Christmas is only 17 days away. Gulp! I have my Christmas decorations up (finally) but still have a bit more Christmas presents to buy. And for a huge lot of one of them (fudge) online shopping just won’t do. The best fudge in town is homemade fudge with no additives or preservatives which to buy I have to go to the Christmas Market at the Distillery in Toronto. Maple Fudge is the name of the company with the fudge booth there. They have a store in Niagara on the Lake and I have been there when out that way visiting cousins during the summer. But now it’s the Distillery Christmas markets where I have to also deal with the crowds. And go on weekdays or pay the $6. entrance fee on weekends from 5  p.m. Friday. Something about paying to get in to do Christmas shopping is just not right. But they do it because the weekends were getting overcrowded.

 

But I must have my fudge and it isn’t ALL for me. Some is, though. Fudge is fuel for writing energy. Or that’s my excuse anyway.

 

Happy writing.

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Working birthdays into your novels

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

Probably because today is my birthday it got me thinking about how to work in birthdays for your main fiction characters. Doing something different in the plot instead of just the character having a birthday party. Or in the case of the fraternal twin PIs Dana  Bowman and Bast Overture in the current Beyond mystery (which I’m still rewriting) who turn 40 in the book. I am avoiding the cliche throw a 40 surprise birthday party. I have also added in that their birthday is December 31 so we have New Year’s Eve as well. Double celebration here, but not just party- party – there are plot twists and revelations and I’ve put all this birthday/New Year’s Eve stuff at the end of the novel. And it is not only December 31, but December 31, 1999 so going into the new (then) 21st. century.  Bast is a computer geek so some of us will remember the big Y2K scare at that time. Yes, that’s involved but I’m not saying how.

What I am saying is there are ways to incorporate typical life happenings and events into your novel but be unique in your plot about it. Another example from this Beyond book is the pushing 40 syndrome, although in 2016 it might be “pushing 60” not 40. Remember my book set in late 1999. Yes, the twins have some anxiety about reaching the big 40, but it’s more than that as both have life intervening events that play a part in their angst. Especially Dana.

And I’m not saying what. Just a few tips to sum up how to incorporate normal life events into your fiction.

For specific holidays, have something different about them and I don ‘t meant just the location. Christmas is a big one. I jump from mid December to New Year’s Eve with just a sentence referencing Christmas in that chapter. While I love Christmas movies – olnd new – I think Christmas plots have been overdone, at least in film. “Different” is the key word here.

For characters birthdays, again, make it different and that can be done by tying it into the plot. Your character pushing 40, 50 or whatever, can help them decide to make a big change in their life – but what is the change? Depending on the genre, they might want to let their inner desires come to the surface and act on them. Use your imagination for what that can be.They might be so fed up with their life situation (which will be in your plot) they decide to disappear for good. Instead of telling your story from the other, main characters about after the character disappears, why not go with the disappearing character and what he or she is dealing with. Is it as he or she expected? Or different?

“Different” again is the key word here. You don’t want to write the same old, same old. So brainstorm. Let your mind wander. This often works best when you are doing something else. You know when you are trying to think of something (with me it is people’s names, a sure sign of getting old(er), don’t think about it and it will come to you.

Having said that, just the act of sitting at your computer and creating and getting in that well, creative – out-of-your-normal- world zone can also bring about some interesting and different plot ideas. Is your character directing this? Maybe. Sometimes I think Dana Bowman is in my head. She certainly thinks she is.

Happy and creative writing.

Cheers.

Sharon

And the  usual, click on the Beyond Blood graphic at the top to go to my author profile and books and where to purchase. Christmas is only 25 days away.

And I don’t have most of my Christmas decorations up. Too busy writing and editing.

 

 

 

 

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