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/
The world has turned into a horrible stressful place because of COVID-19. But we writers have a creative outlet to help us cope. I’m not referring to writing about COVID-19 or how we are dealing with all the crap and changes associated with it. Yes, my last two posts have done just that.
But I have found another way that as a writer I can use to cope much better.
In a previous post I referred to writing both a memoir and the next novel in my Beyond mystery series in the same timeline, i.e., one day rewrite some of my memoir, the next day, write some of my Beyond mystery novel. That did help, but it was too scatty, too fragmented.
So, I had to choose to write one at a time.
My publisher had given me a deadline for later this month to get the rewrite of my memoir to him. The mystery novel is not due until at least sometime next year (depending on COVID-19 interference with when book launches and the like can be held). So, I put the novel on hold, even though my interfering main character, PI Dana Bowman, is giving me hell and some choice words about that. I’ve restarted my Crime Beat Confidential TV shows, which Dana appears on (see here to watch a previous show), so that should shut her up, except in the TV shows).
PI Dana Bowman on Crime Beat Confidential
I also put one other thing on hold until the memoir rewrite is finished and the TV show is taped – finish editing that long novel that requires a heavy edit for a client. Client isn’t too happy, but is accepting it, as I have come up with a way to shorten my time getting his editing work done in future.
One thing COVID-19 is teaching me is “one thing at a time and if others don’t like it, they can lump it.”
And as I began focusing on rewriting my memoir, I found a bonus – something I knew before COVID-19, but had forgotten about thanks to skipping from one project to another.
When rewriting my memoir, I am transported to a different period in my life – in the mid to late 1950s, the 1960s and early 1970s – the grey ages as I call them. I think it is because it is the past that it gets me out of these horrid COVID-19 times for a few hours at a time. Even though life was not easy for me back then, it is done; it is the past, and I guess it comes under nostalgia.
Writing fiction – short stories, novels, novellas – can also transport you out of COVID-19 times – unless that is what your fiction is about. I don’t really recommend that, but if that is where your creativity and ideas lie, I’m not going to say “don’t do it”. It would be fiction based on fact, so go for it.
My Beyond mysteries are set in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The setting is loosely based on where I was living in the late 1990s until I moved back to Toronto. But I have been back to Aurora, Ontario (where I lived from 1975 to late 1998) and also to nearby Newmarket many times since then, but of course today shows the changes in those now small cities, which were large towns when I moved out.
You could say these novels are nostalgic too, although they are fiction, not my story. But again, I’m out of COVID-19 times, temporarily, thanks to writing Beyond Truth, and I am doing something creative. It doesn’t matter what terrible things happen in my novels – they are fiction and each has an ending.
So, escape into creativity for a few hours each day. It will raise your spirits, is good for the mind and body, too. And you have accomplished something and created something as well.
Sharon A. Crawford, author of the Beyond mysteries. All available in e-copies at Amazon. Link for Beyond Faithhere.
COVID-19 days and nights continue and so do a lot of changes. For those of you (writers and others) who think that we writers just write in isolation anyway and can continue to do so, think again.
Writing isn’t just about writing. You have to market your little written darlings to get published, and if a book, promote it.
Before all that you might want (and need) some feedback on your writing-in-the-works. And if you have been attending in-person writing groups, you just can’t do that anymore – or at least for nowthanks to COVID-19. And for me, to add insult to injury (pardon the cliché, but a cliché is well, normal in these definitely non-normal times), the writing group I founded and still run, East End Writers’ Group, is supposed to be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. We had lots scheduled and being prepared for this year.
A Writers Circle reading in person before
Then, thanks COVID-19, things were cancelled. Public venues were closed, including the libraries and we were meeting at the S. Walter Stewart library branch in Toronto since July 2014. Before that we were meeting for a few months in a used book store until it closed; before that in a café which closed too; before that for 17 years in my tiny bungalow. The latter is not an option now, especially with COVID-19 and doing the self-isolation bit until who knows when. Also, even without COVID-19, I don’t want meetings in my house anymore. Too much work.
My favourite meeting place – closed for now
So enter online.
Like many writing groups (and other groups, including my gardening club), we have zoomed into Zoom. I probably don’t need to tell anybody what this is, although how it works, is something else. Both my son, Martin (the IT guy) and a retired IT guy, Nick, who belongs to East End Writers’ Group suggested Zoom and although I haven’t too many clues about how it works (I’m improving with their help), I’m enthused about using Zoom and grateful they came up with the suggestion, and grateful that Nick is doing all the technical stuff to get the meetings going and creating the invitations for members. I am sending out the invitations, so not sitting on my laurels (cliché). So, I like to say, Nick hosts the session and I moderate it. In our two hours or so we have time for four members to each read a poem or two or a short prose excerpt and then after each author reads, it is my turn to lead a discussion and everybody else (and me, too) to give constructive feedback. At the end of our last Zoom meeting (we are meeting every two weeks) the diehards who stayed behind after all the feedback was finished, got into a discussion of how COVID-19 is affecting our writing. The consensus was it is causing us to be distracted and not get as much writing done as we would usually do.
As for the East End Writers’ 20th anniversary celebrations, that too has gone online. Earlier in May, novelist Shane Joseph, who is one of the EEWG’s original members and I were guests on Liquid Lunch on thatchannel the online TV station where I tape my Crime Beat Confidential Show. Liquid Lunch’s host, Hugh Reilly, interviewed Shane and I (remotely – he was in the studio and Shane and I were in our respective homes and coincidentally in our respective offices. Maybe some underlying wish that it will inspire our writing?) to tape the show. The episode is on You Tube now and also you can get to it via thatchannel. Shane and I talk about the early days of East End Writers’ Group. But pay attention to the last part and what we talk about. You can probably guess. Note: as we are isolated, we are not wearing masks, but Hugh is wearing his trademark toque.
And the link to my East End Writers’ Group is here.
So, I guess the message for writers is: don’t let COVID-19 get you down. Find a writers’ critique group online and KEEP WRITING. If you go to my Facebook author page, I post daily writing quotations on weekdays, from other writers, some well-known, some not, to inspire you and get you thinking and writing. Here is that link.
Sometimes I think my mind is fried. Or imitating (badly) the Energizer bunny. A lot of that is dealing with all the changes and problems that arise from COVID-19 and how it has changed all our lives whether we get sick or not.
I sit down at my computer to rewrite a short piece to submit to an anthology. Or I go back into rewriting my memoir and think – my writing/rewriting here is crap. Not as good as earlier in the memoir. Or go back to writing the latest Beyond mystery novel – Beyond Truth. Or write a blog post (I have two blogs). I am also doing the final edit of a client’s long novel – which is interesting and suspenseful but requires a heavy edit. Then something related to COVID-19 interferes.
Interference could be something as basic as going grocery shopping. Yes, I hate lining up outside stores, and dealing with a lot of the crap from store employees that is really the fault of their manager’s bad organization and training. I have dropped those few stores off my shopping list and go elsewhere. No, the big thing about grocery shopping interfering with my writing is when I have to grocery shop. Being a senior with a disability, I am encouraged to shop in off-peak hours. So, no more evening or weekend grocery shopping (which I was doing, so I could write and edit during the day on weekdays, best times for that), except for the local Shoppers Drug Mart, a five-minute walk from me where I go just after 9 a.m. every other Saturday. I am not an early morning person, thanks to health issues, but I can do 9.15 a.m. close to home. Not so grocery stores. But I have found that during lunch time or just after lunch time the grocery stores (and the buses to get there and back) are not busy, partly thanks to social distancing, partly due to off-peak times. But because of dietary restrictions and grocery items’ cost, I have to go to a couple of grocery stores (besides the Shoppers which carries some groceries). So, despite my plan to grocery shop every two weeks, I find that time-line is stretched into two or three days – one shop a day. Doing all three in one day is too tiring (i tried that the first time and after I got home, collapsed on the couch). And then I run out of some fresh veggies and fruit like lettuce and bananas in-between the two weeks.
Now getting into gardening season, there are all the garden supplies to chase down – from seed catalogue orders put in that are slow to arrive to stores carrying gardening supplies cum hardware stuff now on the “unessential business ” list for in-store shopping and they are using alternative ways. Plus I don’t drive so can’t do curb-side pickup (per se)… I think you get the picture. Dealing with business emails is enough extra, now there are emails and news stories related to COVID–19 to keep up with. What’s a writer to do? Tear his or her hair out. Maybe, hairdressing services are not on the essential business list – but dry cleaners are. Go figure.
I do a daily “to’do” list the evening before. But sticking to it??? I need to do some heavy changes mixed in with some softer actions. Heck, I’m a writer. I am creative. So besides following the “to do” list, I am going to try the following and I’m keeping itbasic. the three D’s – Dilute, Delay, Dump. And the three R’s – Review, Re-arrange, and Relax.
How are you as a writer coping with all the COVID-19 confusion, worry, anxiety and fear? Please comment. And speaking of relax – time for my daily walk in the neighbourhood and looking for signs of spring and crossing the street or walking on the street if someone is coming the other way. That’s rude, I think,
As for some of my writing – the anthology submissions, they are ready to go (finally) and will go out as soon as I hear back from the editor about if they can be all submitted as one email attachment or… I know…dealing with all this COVID-19 business has fried my brain. But not enough to fry my creativity.
Sharon A. Crawford, author of the Beyond mysteries. All available in e-copies at Amazon. Link for Beyond Faithhere.
It has been awhile since I posted. I am still here, but engulfed coping with all the changes with this coronavirus or covid 19 pandemic as it is also called. One thing I have also been doing is writing and what I am writing is affected by this virus pandemic. Except for some Facebook postings and comments about the virus, I find what I am writing goes back to the past, before 2001.
This isn’t strange because it is common; it is soothing to go back to earlier times (even before you were born if you are writing historical fiction) when your life becomes a huge trauma with no answers for relief, no certainty. And everyone worldwide is in the same position.
Research does show the benefit of what they call “nostalagia”. See The Psychological
Benefits of Nostalgia
Although some writers are writing stories (fiction or nonfiction) about the pandemic, writing something set in the past can be uplifting. If I am writing more of my latest Beyond mystery in the works (Beyond Truth, working title), I get completely absorbed in the story and the characters. Some of you have read my past postings over the years where my main Beyond character PI Dana Bowman has shall we say, taken over the writing of the Beyond books. At least, she claims she wrote the latest published one – Beyond Faith, but after a few “talkings” from me is now conceding maybe she co-wrote it. For more info on Dana Bowman and her connection to see me my website Beyond Faith page.
But Dana is someone other than me and getting embroiled in her stories (and the other point of view characters in Beyond Truth) gets me into a better world, albeit fictional (or is it? Dana would say otherwise) than the one we live in now.
With fiction, the characters have problems, many traumatic, but it is fiction and in the end (as in end of the book), there is usually some sort of resolution. This is true even with series books (yes, I know I had a cliffhanger as part of the ending to Beyond Faith which picks up in Beyond Truth). This resolution, albeit it may not be all happy, is something we all need today. Fiction can do this. Whether you write fiction or read it or do both. Whether libraries and bookstores have temporarily had to close their bricks and mortar stores, you can “borrow” e-books online from many libraries, buy e-books and print books online at Amazon and elsewhere.
And having said that (warning: shameful self-promotion) here is the link to my Amazon profile
and from there my Beyond books in case you are interested.
And here is a free takeaway. On my Facebook author page, for the past few months I have been posting daily (on weekdays) short words of wisdom for writers under the title Today’s Writing Quotation. I feature quotes from writers – well-known and otherwise, dead or alive, to help writers with their writing. The link to that author Facebook page is here.
So, how are you writers and readers coping with the virus pandemic? Are you reading more? What are you reading? Are you writing more? What are you writing? Is it helping you to get through this dark night of the body, mind and soul? Let’s start a sharing conversation on this.
You may have written your story with a three-dimensional character. The reader is enthralled with your narration – the character’s background, what they think and what they do. Then your character opens his or her mouth and speaks.
The character, is a 20-something immigrant to say Canada, Great Britain and English is his second language. But he is trying and when he masters English better he will be bilingual. But now he is speaking like a professor of English Literature. What’s wrong with this?
Or your character, a seven-year old boy speaks like he is 27 or older. He has average IQ for his age and your description of him includes a reference to that. Even if you hint at that the normalcy of his life will soon change with events, he is still a seven-year old boy.
Fiction characters’ dialogue must be realistic to their age and life situation.
The first situation was something unpublished I read. My take on that was to have the character speak in some-what broken English in parts, keeping in mind he is learning to speak English. So you would cut out all the “a’s:” and “the’s” as many people learning English as a second language do this. For example instead of saying “The car won’t run,” you say “Car not running.” That also covers another area. When learning English, the person does not use contractions. I also would interject this phrase or something similar a few times during the person’s conversation “How do you say it?…”
The seven-year old boy who sounds like he is 20 years older is from one of my Beyond mystery novels – Beyond Faith. David, PI Dana Bowman’s seven-year old son, David may have been kidnapped, but coming back from that doesn’t make him act older. He may do some things he wouldn’t otherwise do, but in keeping with his age as well as his experience. My publisher picked this one out in one of my rewrites before the book was published. I had David traumatized by his kidnapping in Beyond Blood which had him doing things like drawing demons.But he doesn’t go out and investigate what is happening in BF. He does become tuned-in to what is happening (what he comes up against), but in my changes in the rewrite I had him use his fear to show how he reacted. He had become protective of his mother and so he kept things to himself, even when he and Dana were in a session at the therapist’s. And to show he is still a boy, I have him mix up the meaning of words he overhears. In this scene he and Dana have had an argument about an incident when Joanna, the babysitter took David and Buddy (the dog) for a walk. Joanna went into a drugstore, telling David to stay outside. During that time one of the murder suspects shows up; David is frightened, lets go of the leash, Buddy goes after her. David runs after Buddy, and things happen and almost happen. Back home Dana is furious at Joanna for leaving David alone and at David. Here’s the argument. It is from David’s point of view.
“Go to your room, David. I don’t want to talk to you now,” Mommy said. “And you too, Buddy. You’re as much to blame as David.”
As he headed towards the stairs he heard Mommy yelling at Joanna for leaving David outside the drugstore. Joanna was crying and saying she thought he would be okay with Buddy and she couldn’t bring him in when she had to buy those famine products.
“What are famine products?”
“David, upstairs,” Mommy shouted at him.
(From Beyond Faith by Sharon A. Crawford, Blue Denim Press, 2017, copyright 2017 Sharon A, Crawford).
Notice, Dana is called “Mommy” with David’s point of view. Often when he addresses her he says “Mommy, Mommy…”
So how can authors have their characters talk like well, the characters they are:
1. Get inside their head.
2. Listen to characters around the same age and life situation as your character. I knew a writer who at age 30 was writing a book about and for teens. She figured she was too old to remember how teens spoke, so she sat in a park where teens congregated and eavesdropped. This was before Smart phones. You can probably come up with other ways to listen in. If family dynamics and your main character is a mother – go to a grocery store and watch for moms with kids. You can get great insight on parenting and how their kids act in grocery stores.
3. If you do character profiles or descriptions before you start writing, add some dialogue.
4. When you have some dialogue written, read it out loud, or better still, record it and play it back. Does it sound realistic?
5. And read novels with diverse characters of all ages and situations.
These are just a few ways to get your characters speaking in character. But it will get you started thinking.
So, you are sticking with you Point of View writing your short story or novel. The story is from one person’s point of view or perhaps two or three. You have each chapter, and scenes from chapters in only one character’s point of view – no POV change until you are in another chapter or scene. Then you hit some geography.
Maybe it is a particular town or city you character is in or maybe even the inside of a house. Suddenly it is reading as if a another “person” has shown up – somebody called the narrator. But you aren’t using the narrator as a separate person. Your main character or characters are doing all the narration.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Your main character is a young woman, aged 30, named Caroline. She is returning to her home town after many years away and is driving into the town. Let’s call it Whistletown. And the author is starting the chapter like this.
Whistletown has a population of 22,500. The entrance to the town is on Highway 55, which winds its way into the downtown. Main St. has a grocery store, drugstore, cleaners, bookstore, Lulu’s Diner, a couple of gas stations and the obligatory MacDonalds.
Whoa! What’s happening here? Where is Caroline? Has the area’s tourist bureau suddenly taken over?
There is a fix for this and you can keep in your description of the town. The key is to put your character in it.
Has the population increased since Caroline was there last? Why did she leave? When was she there last and why is she suddenly returning? How does she feel about that as she comes into Whistletown? And how does she drive in? Is she hesitant about returning home? Or does she just speed into the town? What has changed on Main Street and what is the same?
Here’s a possibility for the rewrite of the chapter beginning.
As she drew nearer to Whistletown, Caroline slowed down. Not because of the traffic; there wasn’t much here on Highway 55, just an SUV far enough ahead of her that she couldn’t see its license plate. The other way, nothing. Wait a minute. A big Wal-Mart delivery truck was speeding out of town. Don’t tell me Wal-Mart had come to Whistletown? Things must be expanding. A honk sounded behind her and she realized she had almost come to a stop. She sped up, but apparently not enough for the car tailgating her as it passed her and continued on at race driver pace.
Now she was passing the sign reading “Welcome to Whistletown, Ontario’s home of the Blue Danube Orchestra. Population 22,500.” That was a big jump. It had been only 6,000 when she had hurried out of town, hell-bent in getting away from Josh, after he had broken their engagement to marry Janie, her younger sister. Now Janie was dead and she suddenly regretted their 10-year silence. At least Mom had kept in touch occasionally, by letter and email and the odd brief phone call. She wondered if Mom had forwarded her emails to Janie.
She was now at Main Street and slowed down a bit, forcing herself to look at her surroundings. Lulu’s Diner where she and Josh had spent hours just hanging out, drinking sodas, was still there. And darn if it didn’t look the same. Murphy’s Hardware Store, Samuel’s Grocery Store, Hamlin’s Pharmacy were still there, the hardware store looking a little shabby. But Hamlin’s was now part of the PharmaSave chain and where was the cleaners and…what was that up ahead?Was that a MacDonald’s. Well, that was obligatory these days, she supposed.
She continued driving through Main Street until she had passed the downtown core. Suddenly she had to know if there was a Wal-Mart in town. There was – in an open mall up ahead. As she passed it she noticed a Canadian Tire, a No Frills Grocery Store, a Shoppers Drug Mart, a cleaners, although not the one she remembered from Main Street, and at the far end a huge Wal-Mart.
As she turned onto Robinson Street for her mother’s home, she wondered what else had changed. She had the impression that her mother’s phone calls and emails hadn’t told her all.
That’s one example. We get the outline of the town, its changes, how the main character sees it all and how it affects her and how she feels about returning home after 10 years away.
How do you work “geography” into your fiction so it doesn’t read like a travel piece?
Sharon A. Crawford
Author of the Beyond mystery series. And yes, my main characters are right there for “geography” including Lilly, the main character in “Unfinished Business” (short story in Beyond the Tripping Point) who is returning with her daughter to her old neighbourhood in Toronto where something terrible happened when she was a child.
Author readings have been standard for authors to promote their books, but they can be boring. The operative word here is “can” which means you can turn your author reading into something different, something individual. Below are a few twists (and turns) I’ve tried.
1. Have the main character in your book dominate your reading. My main character in my Beyond mystery books is PI Dana Bowman and I’ve made her into a real person (well, almost, although she thinks she is real). I have created an antagonism between Dana and me. Part of this antagonism is who wrote Beyond Faith – Dana or me? So I delve into that when I read.
2. Dana has a tendency to crash my readings. She hides at the back of the room or just outside the door of the room or in the case of a bookstore, behind a bookshelf. I warn my reading audience about her, including holding up an enlarged coloured photo of her, and at the end, pretend to see her poking her nosey nose (well, she is a Private Investigator) at the back of the room, so I abruptly end my reading and go chase her.
Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series.
3. Read with another author – literally. You read from each other’s fiction and take the part of the main characters in the excerpts read. I’ve done this with literary author (nothing like mixing up the fiction genres), Michael Dyet and his short story collection Hunting Muskie. We pick a theme and pick passages from there. With his short stories the passage has two characters. With Beyond Faith, sometimes more. And to make it interesting, Michael sometimes takes Dana’s part so I can read her seven-year old son, David’s part. And it works.
Michael and Sharon – Muskie and Murder presentation. Shane Joseph photo.
4. Use humour. Do skits with another author using two or more characters in your novels and expand what is going on in one novel into a comedy skit. Michael wrote a skit for us where Dana became the PI (instead of the cop in one of Michael’s short stories in the collection. And when the two met, it did not go well to the point of being ludicrous. In another skit with prolific literary author Shane Joseph, I wrote a skit where Dana seeks out one of his book’s characters (George in the novel In the Shadow of the Conquistador) to find a possible relative of Sharon’s – Shane had one of his character’s last names the same last name as Sharon’s maiden name – without knowing this when he wrote the book). The skit turned into a free-for-all, especially when the Blue Denim Publisher arrived on the scene to scold the feuding characters. Shane played two roles, but the skit worked.
5. I’ve had Dana appear instead of me to promote Beyond Faith. Below she is with a bunch of other mystery authors from Crime Writers of Canada at an annual Ontario Library Association annual convention in downtown Toronto.
6. And you can take your author PR beyond readings to appear on panels, which I have done many times. I also host an online interview show Crime Beat Confidential on thatchannel.com where I interview people involved in some way with crime and mystery. Dana starts the show off, doing her usual Dana – dissing me and claiming she wrote Beyond Faith. But she also mentions the show’s guest and when it was a real life private investigator, she interviewed her for part of the show. Usually I do all the interviewing.
A link to the PI guest episode of Crime Beat Confidential is here.
And all this is a lead in to my Author Reading as part of a round of 11 Toronto Sisters in Crime reading each briefly reading a short excerpt from their published fiction. I will be focusing on a theme in my short passage and that’s all I’ll say. Except to add the details for these readings. So, if you are in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area Thursday, January 16, 2020, here are the details.
Date and Time: Thursday, January 16, 2020, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
PI Dana Bowman and the rest of the Beyond books’ gang are showing up at a few new places, not mentioned in a recent post.
I am one of several writers reading at the Wallace Gastropub in Toronto, Sunday, November 24. We are all graduates of Brian Henry’s writing classes and he is letting us strut our writing stuff. I will be reading from Beyond Faith, my latest Beyond mystery novel. The big question is: will PI Dana Bowman show up and create a scene? Not if I can help it. I plan to read an excerpt that shuts her up – at least temporarily. We will start with lunch at 12 noon, followed by the readings. All are welcome, including your friends, foes and family.
A few words about Brian Henry. I have attended several of his writing workshops over the years – including some in Newmarket, Ontario when I lived in Aurora, Ontario near Newmarket. And my East End Writers’ Group sponsored some of his workshops when they were held upstairs at The World’s Biggest Bookstore, before it was torn down to build a codo. Brian has a unique workshop presentation – he actually gets you writing for the first half of the day’s workshop – including during lunch. After lunch there is some writing feedback and a guest connected to the workshop’s content. For example, if it is about how to market and pitch your manuscripts, the guest speaker is a literary agent.More info on Brian’s Quick Brown Fox blog
Location: The Wallace Gastropub, 1954 Yonge Street (near the Davisville subway station), Toronto, Ontario
Date and Time: Sunday, November 24, 2019, 12 noon to 4 p.m.
Sharon reads from Beyond the Tripping Point
My Beyond books are now available at Walmart online. Here’s the link for the two novels:
When I was a journalist, often something happening in my life triggered a story idea. Not necessarily something personal in my life; it could have been something in my neighbourhood or someone I knew or had just met. A big one was when I went through a few years of suffering from debilitating migraines. That one generated several stories published in several newspapers. The stories weren’t about me, but about migraines, headaches, and dealing with pain, including a story on the migraine sufferer who started The Migraine Foundation.
Fast forward to several years later when I am writing the Beyond mystery series. I made one of my re-occurring main characters, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding a migraine sufferer, who was the main character in a short story “The Headache Murders ” (Wordscape 5 Anthology, 1999 MTB Press), and also a main regular character in the first novel in the Beyond Series – Beyond Blood. It is the novel where my main character PI Dana Bowman meets Fielding when there is a weird Break and Enter at her house. Then her son is kidnapped and a murder is committed. You guessed it – Fielding comes down with a migraine and Dana, being Dana, tries to help Fielding in her in-your-face way. Here I use some of the tricks of the migraine suffering “trade”.
For me it was at a party at my house when I got a migraine. The stress of the party, coupled with dealing with a boarder co-organizing the party (and getting on my nerves). One of my friends sat me down in the kitchen, asked for a brown paper bag and told me to hold it over my nose and mouth and blow into it. as I recall, it didn’t completely get rid of the migraine.
But I thought it would work in Beyond Blood for Fielding and Dana to connect as they had started off getting on each other’s nerves (and continued and still continue to do so). I decided to put it in a bedroom scene – no, not what you are thinking. Dana and her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture are bunking overnight in spare bedrooms at their next door neighbours’ house, because the twins’ house is a crime scene and they have to get out for now. The next morning Fielding bangs on Dana’s bedroom door to question her further and brings her a change of clothes that Constable Nivens (female cop) had gathered. Dana was still in her dress-up clothes from the reception opening for her and her brother’s Attic Investigative Agency the previous evening. Some of the conversation goes like this:
“Thanks.” I grabbed the bag. “You look like hell. No sleep?””
“Just a migraine. I get them all the time. It’ll pass.”
“Migraine. Here come in and sit down on….” A quick look around the room showed an ironing board piled high with clothes standing beside a chest of drawers. A basket of clothing sat in the only chair.:..the bed.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“No, it isn’t. Migraines are awful. My mother used to get them, but thankfully I don’t. She used to blow in a a paper bag, to get rid of the pain, I mean. Maybe there’s one here.” I started rummaging in the dresser drawers.”
Ms. B…B…Bowman, it’s all right.”
“Here we are.” I shook a scarf from a Fashion Shoppe bag and shoved the bag at Fielding. He ignored it. “Put it over your face and blow.”
He stared at me, for once speechless, took a deep breath and sputtered.
“Take the damn bag and blow. And go and sit down. I don’t want to have to deal with a cop passing out in a bedroom.”
A little colour hit his face for a second. He staggered over to the bed, plunked down on the edge, leaned over and blew. (From Beyond Blood, copyright 2014, Sharon A. Crawford, published 2014, Blue Denim Press)
You can see how this pans out – and based on personal experience as mentioned previously. And there is something else different about Fielding from your usual police officer characters.
He stutters. Also from my life, but not me – a classmate from grade school. Not to be disrespectful to my classmate, but it triggered another different character trait to use.
So, the take-away idea is: what can you take from your life to use in your short story or novel? Something a little different than falling down drunk or an argument – although those could be used with a twist.
One piece of advice for writers is to write about what you know. I prefer to use that as the bare basis and go from there. You may also find (particularly in non-fiction where you write fact, not fiction), you will become involved in a lot of research, including interviewing several sources. And in fiction, you may also need to go beyond your own experience as I had to in Beyond Faith when Dana is pushed down onto the cement and suffers a concussion.
And not I did not fall down on the cement or get someone to push me – although I have tripped over weeds and plants in my garden, and fallen down a few stairs – but those are for other stories.
Usually taping my TV show Crime Beat Confidential goes fairly straightforward. The latest taping had an unwanted and unexpected guest – Mr. Murphy – he of Murphy’s Law.
I should have expected something like this when even getting my guest interviewee didn’t go smoothly. My guest-to-be is a very busy writer, but very interesting. I had met her before so I’m not talking through the proverbial hat. She was out of town most of the summer and when she finally was back she had one day she could tape the show. So I booked the time for taping at That Channel, sent my guest an outline of the show. (This is not investigative journalism, but informative and entertaining and always focusing on something in the crime area.)
The day of taping was a sunny fall day – not really cold, and not rainy so no worries about water getting into my basement. So what could go wrong?
Almost everything. When I arrived early at the studio I found they had no Internet access (this is an Internet TV station) and they couldn’t tape the show on time. But someone was working to fix the technical problem. Everyone was friendly and there were lots of people in and out, so that when my guest arrived, she was having a lot of fun meeting everybody and seeing what all was going on at the station. Story idea popped into her head for the newspaper where she once worked as a staff writer. I’m used to all this going on (except the technical problem) so I take it all in stride. Meantime, I got ready for my main Beyond book character, PI Dana Bowman to do her introduction. We were then given an update when we would be able to start taping and finally got in the studio close to 5 p.m.
We took our places – my guest, Cathy Dunphy, former staff writer for the Toronto Star newspaper and now the president of a group of mystery writing women and two men called Mesdames of Mayhem, in the sidelines as Dana took her seat in the interview setting. Chris, the technician gave her the cue to start and so Dana went full throttle into her combination rant and intro about the guest. She finished and Chris said, “That was great, but it didn’t tape so we have to do it over.” So, we did, without mishap.
Here featuring PI Dana Bowman doing the intro
Cathy had to be somewhere else in another part of Toronto by 6.30 p.m. so I was filled with rushing to get back on the set and get going. Translation. I changed from Dana to me without doing something I usually do – look in the mirror to see if my hair was okay. And so, Cathy and I sat down in the set area; Chris tested the mics and then went behind the curtain to do his technical magic. He gave us the signal to start and we were off to the races.
Sharon hosting an earlier episode of Crime Beat Confidential
The actual taping went well – no technical difficulties and we were able to leave in time for Cathy to make her 6.30 event only two minutes late and that is after she stopped at Valu-mart to pick up a sandwich for her “supper”. And then pick up her car to drive the rest of the way. I bought a few groceries and returned home by public transit.
A few days later Chris sent me the video to peruse and come up with a title and blurb. So I started to watch. Dana was fine and so was Cathy. But my hair looked as if I had collided with a windmill – bangs all askew. And for some reason only on TV the colour doesn’t come through as it really is. I know that latter because not only does my mirror tell me so, photos taken of me also show it as so. Outside of a bad hair day, the show went very well, especially with two mystery reading addicts talking to each other. See for yourself in this photo not with Crime Beat Confidential
And see the Crime Beat Confidential Show with guest Cathy Dunphy here.
What do you think of the show?
Sharon A. Crawford and PI Dana Bowman signing off.