Sharon A.Crawford is the author of the memoir The Enemies Within Us - about growing up in Toronto, Canada in the 1950s and 1960s. when her Daddy had cancer. Life also included bullies, but also included riding the rails with her Mom and railway timekeeper Daddy to visit her eccentric relatives. Sharon is also the author of the Beyond mystery series - Beyond the Tripping Point, Beyond Blood, and Beyond Faith. She is currently at work on the fourth Beyond book. All books are published by Blue Denim Press. She is also an editor and writing instructor who runs the East End Writers' Group. Visit her at her website www.samcraw.com and her author blog https://sharonacrawfordauthor.com/
Some of you may be wondering what has happened to the East End Writers’ group which I have been running since 2000, especially since COVID arrived and our meeting location – S. Walter Stewart library branch as well as the whole Toronto Public Library in-person closed down for some time. You may also be wondering where I have been. Well, on Facebook and via Email and Zoom, but some of my social presence got limited because of my eye problems. I have been blind in my left eye since beginning of 2019, but that didn’t stop me from posting. It was my so-called good eye developing a lot of problems (which I won’t go into now) and I had to have surgery in September. That did it.
So, as we get out of one of the worst years of my life and into 2023, hopefully a better year for all of us, I plan to be more regular with my blog postings – twice a month on my more personal one Only Child Writes and twice a month with this author one.
STARTING. NOW WITH SOME EXCITING NEWS AND INFO ABOUT THE EAST END WRITERS’ GROUP
WE ARE. BACK MEETING AT S. WALTER STEWART LIBRARY. Yay! And have been since the end of September. I. know, I know, should have posted this then, but I was still recuperating from my surgery. It was great to meet in person once
again, even if we have to wear masks, even if we are in a smaller room and meet earlier in the evening, even if also because of COVID we no longer have food or beverages for a networking snack break. We still have a break to chat. It is so good to be able to share our writing and give and get helpful feedback in person. We are still meeting on Zoom the second Wednesday evening of the month, which is good for those too far away to attend in person. (Some of our members moved away from Toronto.) But it is in person the fourth Wednesday evening of the month (excluding August and December).
A writer needs “outside” feedback for something he or she has written as we writers often have tunnel vision – thinking our writing is all bad, or all good, and/or missing something that doesn’t quite work and an alternative might be better. Enter our critiques. And we try to keep it positive.
I’m going to keep this post short but here is the link to The East End Writers’ group webpage for lots more info including the dates for our January to April meetings. If you live outside the Greater Toronto area you are still welcome to become an EEWG member and attend our Zoom meetings -it is free and so is receiving feedback.GO TO
So to all have a good and healthy New Year and keep writing.
Time to get moving with my Beyond mystery novels and my memoir. At least that is what PI Dana Bowman keeps telling me. I, not Dana, will be doing just that May 26 at the Maple Leaf Mystery Conference on Zoom, where I am one of four panellists on the Cozy Corner panel. The other panellists are: Diane Bator, Ginger Bolton, and Winona Kent and our moderator is Lynn McPherson.
Of course Dana thinks she co-authored Beyond Faith. You should just hear her rant at the beginning of one of our Crime Beat Confidential shows on That Channel. She even managed to get Beyond Faith on her bag as shown just below. All II can say is she is a persistent PI and keeps pushing. In other words, she is a pain in the neck.
However, Dana and I do share one thing with my books. Both of us were terrorized by a nun in grade school. I didn’t have the opportunity as an adult to reconnect with my bully nun. Dana did.
In Beyond Faith Dana and her business partner, PI Bast Overture (also her fraternal twin) get stuck with Dana’s nun – Sister Olsen, as a client. The “good’ nun is suspected of killing her brother by pushing him into traffic. My nun left the convent, got married, had kids, and died. Or so I heard from an old school friend. She is trustworthy so I believe her.
My nun plays a large part in my memoir, The Enemies Within Us. She humiliated me in front of my Grade two class, including whacking me on the nose with a pencil. She turned apologetic and tried to make up for it by feeding me with cookies after class.
That scene (yes “lifted ” from my life and placed in Beyond Faith)when Dana finally realizes why Sister Olsen looks and sounds familiar even though back in her school days, nuns were still Mother St. Whoever. Same for me, although I’m just over a decade ahead of Dana, something Dana likes to remind me about.
So, this nun is in my memoir but except for my parents, my beloved grandfather and myself, I use pseudonyms – to protect the innocent and the guilty.
And there we have a connection between my mystery novel and my memoir. There are others in The Enemies Within Us that show how murder, mayhem, and mystery converged early in my life. Just imagine a couple of 10-year-olds – myself and a friend – trying to insert themselves into an ongoing local homicide, albeit briefly.
There are more;, but you will have to read the book to find out. A caveat here – my memoir covers a lot of other stuff, including as a child and teen dealing with my dad dying from cancer. This is something I have never been able to fictionalize.. But both Mom and Dad loved to read fiction. And I learned that fiction is a good place to slide into, to jump into, when the pain of life is too harsh – even when people are being murdered. There It’s not your life.
Or is it? Remember Sister Olsen.
And remember that Maple Leaf Mystery Conference I mentioned earlier? . It is much more than just one panel. There are several more.: And some big name mystery novelists like Maureen Jennings and Ian Rankin making guest appearances. This is a conference for both mystery writers and mystery readers. And they supplied us with a wonderful tote bag.
In a few future posts I will be writing more about this conference – what else it has to offer. For now you can check out their website
Does fate play a role in your life and in the literature you read and perhaps write? That is a loaded question for me as my memoir The Enemies Within Us is full of fate taking control and I never twigged into it until much later.
Because my memoir is written from the point of view of me as a child sitting on the shoulder of me the senior, I have a good opportunity to look back and tell my story as it happened and include what I know now.
Too bad I didn’t know some of this as a child when fate was trying to tell me something. This recent presentation I did with two other Blue Denim Press authors- Liz Torlee and Shane Joseph, both fiction authors – explores this business of Fate’s role using readings, discussion and some q and a. Our publisher recorded it and it is now on Yourube for viewing. I’m not going to go into any more as you need to watch the video to get the full picture. You can check out more info about the three of us authors presenting on the Blue Denim Press website.
Does Fate play a role in your life and what your read and/or write?
With the pandemic dragging on way too long with so many variants, a book author has to find variations to in-person presentations and book signings to promote his or her book. Being a library lover and patron for many, many years, I am focusing on a few ways for library patrons and other book lovers to find my book, learn about it and borrow it from the library. And yes, I do get royalties for that from the Public Lending Right Program in Canada, as long as the library branches carry copies of my book. So, out there in library land are my three Beyond mystery books and my newest book The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir. It is the memoir I am going to spill the beans on what I am doing beyond getting the book into the libraries.
It helps that my East End Writers’ Group was meeting at the S. Walter Stewart library branch (as one of its programs), that is until the pandemic closed the libraries during lock downs, but even when lock downs were lifted and the libraries opened, in-person programs didn’t return. According to the librarian who I liaison with for EEWG, that won’t happen for some time. EEWG now meets twice a month on Zoom. But more importantly for this post, EEWG celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020. I know, pandemic cancelled any in-library celebrations, but besides taping two appearances with a couple of EEWG members on the online TV show The Liquid Lunch, EEWG went virtual for a big 20th anniversary celebration in 2021. Hey, you got to do things differently.
Three of us organized this celebration – two other members, Kit a speculative fiction writer, and Shane, who is also my publisher at Blue Denim Press, and also a published fiction author and me. I lined up members – new and longtime – to showcase their creative talents, Kit hosted it, and Shane put together the publishing panel as well as being on it, and designing the invitation and setting up the Facebook login for people to attend. Shane and I also sent out virtual invitations and some of mine went to librarians and a retired librarian from the Toronto Public Library system.
And I made my presentation relevant to both one of my Beyond books – the latest Beyond Faith – and my memoir The Enemies Within Us. I used a connection between them – that nun from my past who bullied me in grade school. The nun in Beyond Faith is based on her. So I did a combination of reading and a skit for my presentation. Shane edited the Facebook video, divided it into two videos and both are now online and have been for the few months since the big celebration of May 26.
But I also recently did something else. I emailed my liaison librarian to see if she could get the links to the two EEWG anniversary celebrations on the Toronto Public Library website – as we had been meeting in one of the TPL branches. That didn’t happen exactly, but she was able to get another TPL branch, the Danforth/Coxwell branch to post it to their Facebook page the end of July. So thanks to Luke at the Danforth/Coxwell branch and Jennifer at S. Walter Branch for making this all happen. To see the Facebook posting Log in to Facebook, go here and scroll down. Or log into Facebook and do a search for Danforth/Coxwell library branch.
That’s not all I’m doing with the library – or trying to do. Toronto Public Library welcomes program proposals from authors – at this point for virtual and/for in-person whenever COVID will permit the latter. The big proposal form you fill out online lets you decide which you want – virtual or in-person or both. I chose both. My presentation, without completely giving it away, uses my little girl self and my senior self to present parts of my memoir, especially what it was like growing up with an elderly father who has cancer and being bullied. No bites yet, but I’m still working on the actual presentation.
The take-away here?
Find a writing-related event (yours or something else) you can anchor on to connect with the library and come up with an unusual presentation for your book that can be virtual. And remember libraries have branches for when they finally can open to in-person presentations, and there are libraries right across your country, which can be good for you and the libraries during a pandemic.
We book authors have to be creative to promote our books in pandemic times.
But don’t forget to get your book into the library. Find out how from your library and do it. Mine is in three Toronto public library branches and holds are on for it with some copies in transit from … you guessed it…the copy at S. Walter Stewart branch. The link to The Enemies Within Us in the libraries is here.
Good luck with promoting your book through the libraries.
It’s all about this nun. The nun from my school days, the nun who bullied me in grade two and in grade eight treated me like her personal slave. That’s what my When Fact and Fiction Collide presentation at the East End Writers’ Group 20th. anniversary celebration on Zoom May 26 was all about. I combined short readings from both my mystery novel Beyond Faith and my latest book, The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir, with some short explanation and some acting in an attempt to figure out why this nun appeared in fact and fiction. The memoir featured the real Sister McCoy, with a pseudonym and in the mystery novel, my main character, PI Dana Bowman has a run-in with a nun also in grade two and the same thing happened to her. Of course, the nun here was fictitious, I think. Let’s just say things got a little dicey and scary at the end of my presentation.
Other EEWG members did readings, an author interview and songwriting, The last part was a panel on publishing
And non-techie me didn’t put the video together. Shane Joseph (who also did the techie stuff for the presentation), edited the video, put it on his Google Drive; then my son Martin, the family techie guy (he works in the software development area), moved the videos to my Youtube account and voila, there they are.
The presentation is divided into two videos and here are a few basic details and the links.
East End Writers’ 20th Anniversary Part 1 – The Artists
Sharon A Crawford, Kit Laver, Jake Hogeterp, Ellen Michelson, Tom Laver, Tom Taylor, Nick Nanos and Brian Moore read, discuss, and perform their work. Link here.
East End Writers’ 20th Anniversary Part 2 – The Publishing Panel
Authors W.L. Hawkin and Nate Hendley, and publisher Shane Joseph in conversation on the current state of publishing. Moderated by Tom Taylor. Link here
Beyond Faith and The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir are available on Amazon.
Two years after I moved back to Toronto, I decided to start a writing critique group because I couldn’t find one near me that met on a weekday evening. When I was living in Aurora, a bit north of Toronto, I belonged to this wonderful writing critique group called Richvale Writers. It was run by poet Bernice Lever (and she continued to run it until she moved to BC) and was actually in Richmond Hill, which is a little closer to Toronto. But non-driver me and another non-driver writer were lucky to get a lift with another writer to and from the town centre for our meetings. I liked the way this group operated and it became a model for me to develop my East End Writers’ Group.
East End Writer began meeting in the tiny living room of my tiny east end bungalow. For that first meeting I worried there would not be enough room but worrying wasn’t necessary. Three people – my writer/editor friend from down the street, another writer from Canadian Authors Association, and myself were present for this meeting. Over the next few years the membership and attendance grew, especially when we had guest speakers. One evening we had 17 people crowded into my living room. We were spilling over into my office.
We also developed a modus operandi for our meetings. No feedback given in nasty and/or dictatorship type modes. But it couldn’t be all positive. The trick was to blend the positive and the negative about the story or poem being critiqued to help the writer improve, get ideas for writing problems he or she was having with the piece so the writer could make his or her story better and get it published. It was about the writing, not the writer. It was sharing. And many of us did get the rewrites of our critiqued writing published.
And yes, there were a few questionable feedbacks and complaints about them to me. I can take a lot of writing criticism, usually, but if I had several complaints about someone, unfortunately I had to ask them to leave or as I became more familiar with running a group talk to them and try to work it out. More on this below.
But the “house party” couldn’t last. In September 2013 I had a boarder and her cat. There was no room in this inn for a writers group. So, we became nomads. First stop was a cafe around the corner. I had done readings there from my first Beyond book – the short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) with some other Crime writers of Canada members. A few months later the cafe went out of business and closed.
Next stop was a combination second hand bookstore/quilting workshop centre. We were in the workshop room at the back. This one was for a few months only, but the owners told us this upfront. When our time was up the owners closed the bricks and mortars store and took the books to their online shop.
We were back on the street again. But not for long. Just a couple months of a summer break. Then, thanks to a librarian then at S. Walter Stewart library branch, East End Writers’ Group went into partnership with the library branch as a library program. This meant more publicity for the group with flyers from the library. Membership grew. We had a few public presentations strutting our creative talents (reading our writing, acting, singing, photography).
We also so had to deal with members’ problems. The one that comes to mind is the woman from a community college whom I call “the poacher”. She showed up for one meeting at the library and just about took over the meeting. Unfortunately, I was overtired that night and so were my wits. This particular woman was trying to form her own writing group to meet in the living room of the tiny bungalow she lived in. She persuaded some of the EEWG members to email her their short stories, novel excerpts, etc. for her to critique. I heard from some of the members that they never heard back from her in any way.
But Karma always kicks in, often when you do nothing. I heard later (and I don’t remember from where) that she not only didn’t get a writing group going in her bungalow, the landlord kicked her out, I believe because he wanted the house for a family member to move into. Lesson: if you give someone the boot or equivalent, you will also get the boot from someone.
In late 2019 we started preparing for our 20th anniversary in 2020. In February 2020 I picked up flyers for a guest novelist at one of our upcoming celebrations and was just going to distribute them when…
COVID-19 hit and many businesses, etc. in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario, in other parts of Canada, shut down. That included all Toronto library branches. The library was now only online, so many of us were put on hold, in COVID limbo, where we still sit thanks to all the waves and variants of COVID. I will not go into who is to blame for all this COVID stuff here. Maybe another time. Maybe on my Only Child Writes blog. For now I prefer to focus on writing and the like.
One of our members, a retired IT guy got us on Zoom in April 2020. He does the technical stuff so is called the host. I am the meetings’ moderator. Since then we’ve been meeting on Zoom twice a month except for December. However, 20th anniversary celebrations got put on the back burner. I was too busy dealing with all the changes in living due to dealing with all the COVID stuff (for another blog post on another blog), and very busy with several rewrites of my memoir The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir, which as you may know from previous blog posts, was published in October 2020 by Blue Denim Press.
When 2021 arrived and COVID was still sticking its ugly face and other parts into our lives, I decided we were going to celebrate East End Writers’ Group 20th anniversary in 2021. Everything was all topsy-turvy, so why not?
Unlike our previous celebration presentations (10th, 13th, and 15th anniversaries) I was not going to do most of the organizing, preparations, etc. myself. So I put together a group of four of us – longtime members Shane Joseph and Tom Taylor and newer member (as in started to attend from our library meeting days) Andrea Laver, and me. All of us took on parts to get this show on the road -virtually, of course. Shane who is computer savvy (he is a writer but also publisher at Blue Denim Press) is handling all our technical stuff – planning meetings on Zoom, dress rehearsal on Zoom, upcoming show on Zoom, and the invitation on Facebook (with the Zoom login embedded in it for activation the evening of the show). Andrea volunteered to host the presentation, and I put out a call for presenters in the East End Writers monthly newsletters which I write and send out. And we got a variety of talent signed up – author interviews,singing and songwriting, readings, a presentation on what happens when fact and fiction collide, and a panel on publishing, although Shane took that one over after I got one more panelist signed up and he signed up the third panelist. Once that was done I left the panel set-up to those involved. Unlike our library presentations, this one won’t require a food spread for all.
In the following posts before the presentation I’ll be putting a bit more about who is doing what and an insight on an individual preparation for doing a presentation without giving it all away. As well as a few other things being done.
Meantime, take note again of this date for the presentation: Wednesday, May 26, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT(please adjust your time zones) and please sign in to attend. Here is the link which will get you to the actual invitation on Facebook before you sign in. You do have to login to Facebook to sign in as going. So, if you are a writer or reader, please join us.
Writing a memoir involves a lot more than just telling your story. You have to be truthful and information-correctas this is not fiction. And in today’s political correctness world (and a few other things going on ), it involves so much more. I should have at least some idea of this as it took me 18 years to finish The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir. Hey, I was also writing other stuff then, too ,as for part of those 18 years I worked as a freelance journalist, editor and writing workshop instructor. Still do the latter two, but I also have written and published some personal essays and three books (so far) in my Beyond mystery series – the latter published by Blue Denim Press. And am working on the fourth Beyond mystery.
One thing memoir writing involves is research. And not just your family and friends if they are included in your memoir but historical and social history of the time you were writing in. You have to be accurate and you don’t want to mix up dates and information. Also family members may give you some background history, but it helps to do some checking elsewhere. For example, they may remember a family thing happening at such and such a time because it ties in with some event in the news. People’s memories can get foggy, so it is best to verify their time and date. They may be right about the family event date, but not the news event date.
One piece of research I did for The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir relates to a homicide of a 12-year-old girl in Toronto that affected myself and my best friend The Bully when we were 10, so much so that when we saw uniformed police snooping around on the street by our grade school the day after the story appeared in the newspaper, we asked them questions. To get the timeline on that I had to research online just when this murder took place. In my mind I knew my age but to narrow it down to month and even year, and more details of the homicide, required more research.
Another big research area I had to check out was CN railway history in Canada as my late father worked for CNR (as it was then called) as a timekeeper.
The problem with a lot of research is you can suffer from what I call “researchitis”. As a former journalist, that “disease” hit me hard.
That and a few other pertinent areas of memoir writing will be covered in a memoir writing how to that is being presented by my publisher Blue Denim Press and features two of their published memoir authors, Linda Hutzell-Manning and Sharon A. Crawford (me) spilling the beans about some of the behind-the-scenes of writing a memoir. Our memoirs cover completely different personal stories (as memoirs do), so the circumstances and research cover different, as well as some similar, areas (we do overlap for a couple of years so some news events are the same). One situation that comes up is do you use real names in a memoir? To find out, you will need to attend this free memoir writing presentation. Information is below:
You can get to the event here if you are on Facebook. If you can’t make it, it will be recorded and posted in YouTube a few days later. Stay tuned for updates on the YouTube postings.
Sharon A. Crawford
Author of The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir and the Beyond mystery series. More information in Sharon’s website and books are available at Amazon.
Rosemary McCracken turned the tables on me, interviewing me about my memoir for her blog. Now it’s my turn. Seriously, Rosemary has created a likeable and believable mystery protagonist – a financial advisor – who keeps running into crime, and not just financial misdeeds, but murder. Today Rosemary is my guest and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pat Tierney was nearby.
Sharon: Welcome Rosemary. Let’s go back a bit. You started your writing career as a journalist and you still do some freelance writing in that area. What made you start writing crime fiction?
Rosemary: Well, Sharon, I always wanted to write fiction, but I knew that very few writers are able to earn a living from their fiction. So, I did a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English literature and became a journalist because I could earn a living writing, albeit not writing fiction. About 20 years ago, I started writing mainstream fiction on the weekends. At some point, I was exploring plot and plot structure, and I decided to take a closer look at crime fiction, which is known for its strong plots. And I fell in love with crime fiction. It can offer wonderful insights into society and human behaviour, and, in the best works in the genre, has a tight cause-and-effect structure.
Sharon: How did the Pat Tierney mystery series evolve? Is Pat based on a real person or is she a composite?
Rosemary: I was a financial journalist when I started to write my first mystery novel. I decided on a woman in her mid-40s as my protagonist. At first, I considered making her a journalist, but I’d lived that role for many years, and I hit upon the idea of making her a financial planner instead. At the time, I was interviewing financial planners and money managers for my articles. I attended their conferences, and I knew the issues they were grappling with. The Bernie Madoff investment scandal had just broken. Madoff, a New York money manager, had defrauded his clients of $64.8 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme. And in Canada, we had financial scamsters of our own such as Patrick Kinlin, the Bay Street financial advisor who stole millions from his elderly clients. Kinlin died in Kingston Penitentiary in 2001 where he was running a pension cheque scam using a prison computer.
Pat is appalled by people like Madoff and Kinlin who ruined countless lives without remorse. She wants much tougher penalties for financial fraudsters. The anger and outrage she feels is how I would react if I was in her shoes. But Pat is clearly not me. I’m not a financial planner. I’m not responsible for clients’ financial wellbeing. I don’t have sleepless nights when stock markets are down.
Sharon:I am impressed with the plots you have come up with. Do you get these ideas from real life or does real life spark ideas?
Rosemary: All the crimes I write about are real crimes that have been committed at some point. And I’ve written articles about all the financial crimes in the Pat Tierney books. Because Pat is a financial professional, it is essential to have financial wrongdoing (which often leads to other crimes including murder because greed is a powerful motive for all sorts of bad behaviour) in her stories. And she has to use her knowledge of the financial world to recognize and solve these crimes.
So, I generally decide on the financial crime that will figure into my story, and how Pat becomes aware of it. One of her clients may have fallen victim to it, or it could be someone else she encounters. Because the books are murder mysteries, the major crime will always be a murder, the most heinous act humans can commit. But the financial crime will be tied to the murder or the murderer’s world in some way.
Sharon: In your Pat Tierney novels, you give brief explanations of what financial advisors do. This background information blends well with the characters and plots. Why do you use this approach?
Rosemary: I write to entertain readers, not to instruct them. My target readers are mystery readers over the age of 25 and all the way up to 125, who enjoy good stories. Some of these readers may know a little or a lot about personal finance from the work they do or from managing their own investments. Others know next to nothing about the financial world, and I need to show them—rather than tell them—the basics of what Pat does for her clients through her interactions with them. But readers don’t need to know the details of how Pat goes about managing and investing clients’ money; that is backstory and I keep it way back, out of sight for the most part. However, they need to understand the importance of the trust clients place in her and the accountability she has to them.
Sharon: Please give a brief summary, with no spoilers, of each Pat Tierney mystery, including the timeframe and setting of each?
Rosemary: The four Pat Tierney novels, all of them contemporary stories, take place over one year in Pat’s life. Safe Harbor, the first, opens on Dec. 30 when a distraught woman bursts into Pat’s Toronto office and tells her that Pat’s late husband was the father of her seven-year-old son. Pat is stunned by the revelation, and even more shocked when the women bolts from the office, leaving young Tommy behind. When the woman is found murdered in her Toronto home, the police tell Pat that the boy may be the killer’s next target. Searching for the truth, Pat uncovers a deadly scheme involving illegal immigrants and money laundering.
Black Water opens in March when Pat’s daughter Tracy tells her that her sweetheart, Jamie Collins, has gone missing. Pat heads up north to cottage country where Jamie grew up. An elderly man has recently died in a suspicious fire, and the missing Jamie is the prime suspect. Pat takes charge of a new branch that her investment firm has opened in the area. Her search for Jamie Collins takes her through a maze of financial fraud, drugs and murder.
Raven Lake opens in late June. Pat is still in cottage country, and plans to spend the summer in a rented cottage by a sylvan lake. But her dream vacation turns into a nightmare when the body of an elderly woman is discovered in a storage locker. Bruce Stohl, the woman’s son and Pat’s friend, is pegged by police as their prime suspect, and Pat rallies to find his mother’s killer. Meanwhile, a con artist has targeted cottages in the area, and vacationers are arriving only to learn that they are victims of a rental scam. When disgruntled renters show up at the door of her rented summer home, Pat fears for her family’s safety.
Uncharted Waters takes Pat back to Toronto in September. She has left the big investment firm, and plans to open her own financial planning practice in the city. She has found a small practice that looks like a good fit for her. Its purchase means taking out a large loan, and she has no idea whether the clients she acquires will stay with her. It’s risky, but she’s willing to proceed. But the one thing she hasn’t factored in is murder. Dean Monaghan, the business’s vendor, is found stabbed to death in his office shortly after the sale document is signed. To protect her business’s reputation, Pat searches for Dean’s killer, and the reason why he was killed. When Dean’s sun, Lukas, tries to put her out of business, Pat finds herself living her worst nightmare. She has ventured into uncharted waters that are teeming with sharks.
Sharon: Pat has to overcome a personal hurdle in each novel, which ties in with the main plot. What was your purpose in doing this?
Rosemary: This is what is called creating a character arc for the protagonist: giving her an internal goal and well as an external goal to work toward. Pat’s external goal is finding the murderer and the reason for the first murder in each story, and this is what drives the plot forward. Her internal goal involves overcoming a weakness, or getting around an obstacle that threatens her on a personal level such as Lukas’s attempt to put her out of business by spreading a terrible lie. An internal goal adds dimension to a character; without one, a protagonist may come across as flat. And working toward an internal goal adds more conflict to the story.
Sharon: Do you create a detailed outline of your plot before you start writing? If so, how closely do you keep to it, or does Pat take over at any point?
Rosemary: A major assignment in Novel Writing 2: How to Develop Your Novel, the course I teach at George Brown College, is creating a detailed plot outline for students’ novels-in-progress. The purpose of this exercise is to familiarize students with a novel’s major plot points—the Inciting Incident, the Point of No Return, the Midpoint, It Looks Like All is Lost, the Climax and the Resolution—as well as subplots. These classic plot points form the structure of most successful novels and movies. They can be compared to the poles holding up a tent. Without them, the story would sag.
I don’t create a detailed outline before I start writing. Rather, I list my plot points on a chart on my wall, and fill them in as I go. And I keep checking the list to see if I’m on track.
And I refuse to let Pat take the story in new directions. If I find her trying to do this, I give some serious thought to why she’s doing it. Getting her back on track usually means rewriting earlier parts of the book.
Sharon: Jack Batten, who reviews crime fiction in the Toronto Saturday Star, has called Pat “a hugely attractive sleuth figure.” He has also reviewed the Pat Tierney novels. How did this come about?
Rosemary: I sent Safe Harbor to Jack at the Star when it first came out, and he was gracious enough to read and then review it. And he did the same with the following three books. I’ve been very fortunate, as his review column now only runs once a month.
Sharon: You also write short stories, some of which have featured Pat Tierney. Can you elaborate on them?
Rosemary: Many of my short stories were written in response to publishers’ calls for anthologies they were compiling. They announced a theme, a word count ceiling, and other rules for submissions. I work well to guidelines of this kind—it must be my journalism background—which narrows my focus and gives me direction. For example, three of the Mesdames of Mayhem’s four anthologies had specific themes: stories in 13 O’clock involved time in some way; 13 Claws was a collection of crime stories involving animals; and In the Key of 13 featured stories about songs or music.
Sharon: Which do you prefer to write and why – short stories or novels?
Rosemary: I like to write both in tandem. A Pat Tierney mystery novel takes me at least three years to complete, so it’s good to have a story or two to work on as diversions.
Sharon: You belong to a number of professional organizations for mystery writers. Which ones are they and how have they helped you with your writing and publishing?
Rosemary: I’m a member of Sisters in Crime Toronto, Sisters in Crime International, Crime Writers of Canada, the Short Mystery Fiction Society and the Mesdames of Mayhem. They offer opportunities for promoting members’ works, educational opportunities and the fellowship of other writers. In non-pandemic times, Sisters in Crime Toronto https://www.facebook.com/groups/SinCToronto/ holds monthly meetings featuring speakers on a variety of crime fiction topics. These meetings, and pre-meeting gatherings at a local restaurant, are attended by members who are both writers and readers, providing great opportunities to network with other writers and potential readers. During the current pandemic, monthly meetings are held online. The mothership organization U.S.-based Sisters in Crime International https://www.sistersincrime.org/ hosts webinars on a variety of crime fiction and literary topics, often hosted by famous American writers; it also sends out monthly e-newsletters with timely articles on the publishing world.
Crime Writers of Canada’s local chapter organizes readings and panel discussions at libraries and other venues—great opportunities to meet readers. Check out more about the CWC at https://www.crimewriterscanada.com/.
The U.S.-based Short Mystery Fiction Society, the organization that confers the Derringer Awards, posts members’ publishing news on its blog at https://shortmystery.blogspot.com/, and members exchange information about markets for short stories and guest blogging on its Listserv.
And the Mesdames of Mayhem, a collective of Canadian crime writers, post members’ publishing news on its blog at https://mesdamesofmayhem.com/, and organizes reading and discussion opportunities at libraries and book clubs.
Sharon: Some authors decide early on that they will limit their series to a certain number of novels. Will there be more Pat Tierney mysteries in your series? If so, have you decided just how many?
Rosemary :I’m gathering ideas for a fifth Pat Tierney mystery, but I can only think about this work right now, and not too far into the future. I’m sure that Pat will let me know at some point that the well is dry—and her stories are over. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Sharon: And that’s good news for your readers. Thank you, Rosemary for stopping by my author blog and sharing information about your novel and short fiction writing story. We get to know both Pat and you, her creator.
Rosemary McCracken is the author of the Pat Tierney Mystery Series. Safe Harbor, the first novel in the series, was a finalist for Britain’s Debut Dagger Award. It was published by Imajin Books in 2012, followed by Black Water in 2013, Raven Lake in 2016, and Uncharted Waters in 2020. “The Sweetheart Scamster,” a Pat Tierney short story in the anthology Thirteen, was a finalist for a Derringer Award in 2014. Jack Batten, the Toronto Star’s crime fiction reviewer, calls Pat “a hugely attractive sleuth figure.” Born and raised in Montreal, Rosemary now lives in Toronto. She teaches novel writing at George Brown College.
Mystery fiction author Rosemary McCracken and I are taking mutual marketing of our new books in another direction. Interviewing each other about our latest books and posting the interviews on each other’s blogs. So her interview with me is on her Moving Target blog and my interview with her will be on this blog here. Right now I am in the process of interviewing her.
And if you are thinking what the heck does a mystery have to do with a memoir? Besides both genres beginning with an “M”? Well, I do brand myself as The M and M Creator of Mystery and Memoir. And my memoir The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir does have some mystery in it – an old unsolved murder case in the Toronto Police files, which my friend, The Bully and I, became fixated on. The murder victim was a girl, age 12. The Bully and I were 10. And I delve into some of the other occurrences in my childhood that would end up pointing me into a writing career – both nonfiction (journalism) and writing murder mysteries.
Some of the stories in Beyond the Tripping Point got their idea from things that happened in my childhood and later – fictionalized with events that never happened, and characters way off from the people in my life. Plus many characters not based on anyone in my life – at least that I recall. For example, the father in “Porcelain Doll” is very loosely based on my own father, except the fictitious dad was mean and criminal. My dad wasn’t that. The fictitious dad didn’t die of cancer. My dad did. Much of The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir deals with my relationship with my beloved Daddy and what cancer did to that.
But that was my first Beyond book and it won’t be my last. However, right now I am getting the word out about The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir. So, I will send you over to Moving Target and Rosemary McCracken’s interview with me and my memoir here. And while there check out more of Rosemary’s blog posts.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on my blog about Rosemary McCracken and her latest Pat Tierney mystery Uncharted Waters.
This COVID-19 pandemic keeps continuing and we writers need to find different ways to promote our books. And help each other in the process. As you know from previous posts over the past few years, I host the online TV series Crime Beat Confidential on thatchannel.com. The latest was done just before the end of 2020 and featured another series mystery writer – Rosemary McCracken. who writes the Pat Tierney mystery series.
Rosemary and I belong to a couple of the same mystery-writing organizations – Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime. In the days when we could still do so, we often were panelists together (and with other authors) with those organizations’ presentations. Here we read and/or talked about our books, including doing some q and a.
I also run the East End Writers’ Group – for writing critiques – now virtual. When we met at S. Walter Stewart Library in Toronto, Canada, Rosemary was one of my guests for one of our special presentations. So books were physically there for readers to buy. Now the book-selling process is online in various capacities. I know, I know, some of us, like me, have done some book sales from our verandas. But all sales instigated either from Facebook, email, book launch, or elsewhere on line.
So now we writers pair together to promote our books. Below is the link to Rosemary’s Crime Beat Confidential interview, done remotely. It is about 45 minutes long. Warning: my pesky in-your-face Beyond character, PI Dana Bowman, loudly starts the show – as she usually does. But despite her brashness, she is turning into a good marketer for my memoir. Hear and see what she has to say at the beginning and then she talks a bit about Rosemary. But I am the one interviewing Rosemary while Dana gets banished out of camera view on the living room couch.