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Category Archives: Beyond Faith

Don’t forget your research

Beyond book No. 3

You may be writing fiction, but you still need to do some research. Sure, you can make up your story, your characters – and you better be doing the latter – but some things such as a place, a date, a real life event will pop up that you need to check out, even if you are writing science fiction. And if you are writing anything – sci-fi or other – and there are police in it, you will need to do research. Ditto for any other career involved even if you have worked in it.

Then there are stories set in countries other than the one you live in – or oven another part of the country you live in. Peter Robinson, who writes the Inspector (now Superintendent, I believe) Banks mystery series sets his novels in Yorkshire, England. Peter has been living in Canada for many, many years, but he makes regular trips back to Yorkshire.

And if you are writing historical novels – romance or mystery, or any novel set in the past, you need to do some research. My Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith are set in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Computers, the Internet, etc. were quite a bit different then. If you set your story in the late 1990s you can’t have people running around with smart phones. Yes, there was email and Internet then, but on computers.. My twin PIs, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture do have cell phones, but the type that flipped open and closed and no email or text on them, although text was just coming in across the pond in Europe. But not in Toronto, Ontario and north of Toronto.

Even though I didn’t have a cell phone then, a real estate agent/friend of mine did. So I could go back to what I remember about that phone, which I did use a few times. Not enough though, so I did a lot of research on cell phones from the past, what they looked like, their size (fortunately in the late 1990s they weren’t still the big clunkers from four or five years earlier). I was able to do enough research for that on the Internet. But not all research on the Internet is sufficient. Sometimes you have to get off your laptop, off the Internet and off your butt, off your smart phone, and get out there and do other research.

There is the obvious one with police and I’ll go into that in another post. Today, I want to talk about one of my in-your-face type of research – not exactly interviewing someone – which I did a lot of when I was a journalist (and some was via phone and email). No, something else I used to do for research for a story was to get out their and “absorb the scene”.

One of my stories in Beyond the Tripping Point is set in present day Toronto. There is an alley in the story, so I re-visited the alley behind a street of row houses where relatives used to live many years before present day. I walked up the street in front of the houses to see what they looked like today and then I went around the corner and into the alley behind and started walking there. I visualized the scene in the story (Missing in Action) and decided this alley fit the story. So when I wrote that scene this was the alley I was thinking about. Yet I didn’t pinpoint where it was in Toronto in the story.

In the story “Unfinished Business” I have the main character revisiting her childhood home area in Toronto with her 12-year old daughter because the daughter insisted. Something really bad happened to the mother when she was around the daughter’s age and she had only been back once just for a ride-through with a friend and she ducked down in the car so she wouldn’t see the place. When she came with her daughter, I envisioned where I grew up and had her drive in past buildings and on roads there up to the house (but I changed the street names). However, the whole street was in my mind as I wrote it as were most of the changes outside the house like for my house – except the rickety old garage at the back  of the driveway. It had been replaced  just before I moved back to Toronto in 1998, but I left it in my story, because it was crucial to the story. The people in the story and the bad thing that happened to my character didn’t happen in my life. (I had other things that happened instead). And for the record, I have a son, not a daughter. And also for the record, I took many walks along that street and even talked to the current owners before I wrote my story. Unlike my story’s main character, I don’t drive.

And how the latter happened is the “fault” of a couple of cousins visiting from Michigan, well, one of them. Here’s how that went.

My cousins, G and K and I were driving downtown from my place to meet my son for dinner. As we drove past the street where I grew up, big mouth me mentioned this. G turned onto my street, stopped outside the house (big mouth  me again telling him which one). A man in his mid-fifties was hauling a golf set from the trunk of his car. G rolled down the window and shouted out “My cousin used to live here.” So the three of us had to get out and we got into a conversation with the man and his wife. Turns out they (particularly her) are interested in the house’s history and the street’s history too. And the garage came into the conversation. The wife asked me if the original garage was so far back and I said “no.” Some more comparisons of outside were made and I learned some of the history of the property from after I moved. And I saw more inside when a few months later (I had their permission to call to make an appointment for this) I visited the couple inside the house.

Unfinished Business did not take place inside the house, but it did have scenes on the street, in the driveway and the old rickety garage.

So research is not all boring and you can get some physical exercise doing it. Just remember to go beyond the Internet.

Cheers.

Sharon A Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series.

Short story collection (2012)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can Point of View help Character Development?

No matter what genre of fiction your write – mystery, romance, science fiction or if you writer literary fiction – your characters are very important to your story and to your readers. Readers want to get to know your characters so they can connect to them – whether they like or dislike them. If you just skim the surface of your characters they become too superficial and your readers just won’t care about them. They may even stop reading your short story or novel before getting to the end. This does not bode well for the fiction writer.

How can you make your readers connect to and care about your characters?

One way is getting inside their head. The best way I know how to do this is by using another fiction-writing technique – Point of View.

Point of View is often misused, especially if you use more than one POV in your novel. And using more then one POV is not wrong. You just have to remember the cardinal rule. One character’s  POV per scene or per chapter. So stay only in that character’s head during that scene or chapter. Otherwise you are doing what we call in the business – “jumping heads”. Perhaps if you think of lice doing that it will give you some incentive not to jump heads.

How can POV help you see and develop your characters?

Basically,if you are inside that character’s head, you have to think like him or her – not like you would think for yourself. For example, how does he react when things go wrong ? What makes him scared and what does he do because of it? Is he shy? Is he a bully? Is he being bullied?  Reactions include actions, dialogue, inner thoughts and how others react to him? And these will depend on the character. For example if the character is a child, the reactions will be different than an adult. But adults also react differently to situations and that is based on their background, their characteristics – physical (are they short and fat and subject to a lot of derogatory comments about that? Do they cringe, hide inside themselves, stand up for themselves or bully the attacker – maybe punch him in the nose?)

All depends on your character and yes, doing a detailed character outline of your character helps. Just remember like real-life people, characters change and evolve – often because of what goes on in their life. So your character outline is fluid.

How do your characters react to being insulted? Frightened? To trauma?

Let’s look at one of my main characters in Beyond Faith – seven-year-old David Bowman. He was kidnapped in the previous book, Beyond Blood, and is suffering from Post traumatic stress disorder because of it. This affects how he speaks, what he does,what he thinks and what others, especially close family, think of him.

The best way is to use the writing axiom of “show not tell.” So here are a couple of short excerpts from Beyond Faith (published Blue Denim Press, fall 2017). Please note all copyright of all excerpts,  is with me, Sharon A. Crawford, the author.

First, his mother’s inner thoughts about him. The first chapter is from her – PI Dana Bowman’s POV. She is walking up Main Street dreading returning home. Two short excerpts here:

THE WIND WHIPPED my back and the cold rain pelted my face. Hunching further inside my jacket, I pulled the hood tighter. Despite chattering teeth and an oversized purse sliding down my sleeve, I continued plodding forward.

Late November in Thurston Ontario could weave a wicked wind, leaving you out of sorts and gasping for life, a feeling I had experienced a lot lately. Couldn’t seem to put my finger on it. Bast said it was because we would turn 40 the end of next month and to get over it. But that wasn’t it. Just when I seemed to find the proverbial hole, something always kept me from crawling in. But what was really stopping me?………

 

I should be happy. Not only did my son David survive his kidnapping last year, but this July he finally started talking again after months of silence. First he wouldn’t shut up, then he took to following Bast around again like he did when still mute. Since summer disappeared into autumn, when not at school, David was spending more time alone in his room—drawing. I didn’t like what erupted from his crayons—devils, fires with heads sticking out the top, hands wielding axes or guns. Where did he get all these ideas? Had he not healed from the kidnapping? Maybe the aftermath was like grief—going back and forth and all over the place in uneven stages……

What’s happening here? How does this clue the reader in on David’s character? And on his mother’s too? What do these short excerpts tell you about mother and son?

Let’s hear from David now in another scene. A little bit of info first. Partway through Beyond Faith, Dana is attacked from behind, falls to the cement and suffers a concussion. This is part of the scene a few hours later in the hospital from David’s POV.

“Uncle Bast, can we go see Mommy so the detective can find out who hurt her?”…..

Bast turned to the doctor. “Very well, if you don’t have any objection, Doctor? I would like to see my sister, too.”

Dr. Richards scratched his cheek. “She is sleeping now. She should get more rest, no excitement.”….The doctor shrugged his shoulders. “Fine. But just family. And just for a few minutes.”

He led them back to Mommy’s room. The cop sitting outside seemed to be asleep on the job. David went to him and shook him. “Wake up. You’re supposed to be watching Mommy’s room to keep the bad guys out.”

Constable Biggs looked up, but before he could say anything, Uncle Bast was leading David into the room, behind the doctor. The doctor said something to the nurse about giving them a few quiet minutes alone with the patient. The nurse stood up and she and the doctor left the room.

Bast sat down in the chair on one side of the bed. David moved his chair closer to Mommy on the other side. He sat down and took her hand. And started to talk about school, Ms. Dugan, and Buddy. He was there and he wasn’t going to leave her. If he did, he knew she would die……

What does this excerpt tell you about David? What techniques were used to show the reader David’s character? And as this is a child character, are his thoughts and language appropriate for a seven-year-old boy?

If you wish to find out more about the Beyond characters, Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith are available at amazon.com, amazon,ca, and other online places as well as some bricks and mortars stores.

But I am also suggesting you read a variety of novels (or short stories if that is your writing area) to see how a variety of other authors handle POV and character. Two caveats: unfortunately a small portion of published fiction messes up the POV – blame the editor here. And don’t copy what another author does – reading is for your learning and inspiration. In the end it’s your story and your characters.

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford

 

 

 

 

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Getting back into novel-writing groove

It has been awhile since I have had time to actually work on my fourth Beyond mystery book.Earlier this year I got a good start and then as they say “life happens.” A lot of that life this year for me is a lot of problems coming my way – the annoying part being that 90% are caused by other people and/or organizations.

Heck, I can create enough chaos without any input from others, But they provide lots of fodder for future short stories and maybe even for my new mystery novel.

But not all the distractions were bad. I an still a writing instructor and editor so there was work there. And I also write memoir and that’s where the bulk of my creative writing has been taking place. The results are a short memoir piece about dealing with my father’s death from cancer when I was 16  which is to be published in an online university journal, to just about finishing the final rewrite of the full book-length memoir – at least until any interested publisher gets at it and edits it..But I like rewriting.

And of course, book promo for Beyond Faith – and that continues. Some via social media, some in person and some with my new TV show Crime Beat Confidential on thatchannel.com, Episode three coming up soon. But you can catch the first two either at thatchannel.com under “Shows” or by Googling “Crime Beat Confidential and Youtube” as thatchannel.com uploads all their shows on Youtube.

But this week I spent an afternoon back at Beyond Truth. Did some more plot and character development.I had forgotten how a writer can be so absorbed in creating a novel, a short story, etc. that the rest of the world can go to hell and you just don’t care. My world was the world of Beyond Truth and its characters and plot. And I still like the beginning Prologue I wrote earlier this year.  It was good to see I can still develop twisted plots – now I have to write them. I always do so with the premise that none of it is sealed in granite. If it doesn’t work out I can come up with something else. Or my main book character Private Investigator Dana Bowman can. And that woman sometimes gives me grief. She thinks she wrote Beyond Faith so I think for Beyond Truth she and I will have to collaborate or there will be no peace.

But I’m getting the byline on the book.

To do all this, I have to write more often. To do this I have to get rid of some distractions and prioritize others. For one thing I’m back to setting a timer for when I do daily email (and finally finished in the time allotted today). And I am pickier about what I reply to and when. I am deleting more. I am saying “no” to more requests for stealing my time and not just those coming in via email.. Now that winter is here, I hope to spend more time indoors as I’m not a winter sport or any winter activity fan, although I do walk in winter.  I will also attend less events when the weather is terrible.

As for those problems that won’t go away. I try to pick one to deal with each day.

So, as of next week, I plan to spend more than just one half day a week working on Beyond Truth and will more than pencil it in to my calendar.. I have to. My police consultant stopped me at a mutual author’s book launch last month and asked me why I haven’t emailed him with more research questions. He may get inundated shortly.

How do you find time to write your novel, short stories or whatever you write?

Comments, please. I can learn from others’ experiences.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series. Most recent book, (Click on the book)

 

 

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Crime Writers of Canada 35th Anniversary book signing

CWC Book Signing coming up

Authors brandishing swords, pointing guns, rushing with knives? Not quite. All this murder and mayhem we may create is between the covers of our books. Of course, our lips are not sealed about what goes on between the book covers with our characters and in our plots and in our minds. We will be glad to share. And Chapters Newmarket will have copies of or books should you wish to buy. And we will sign copies of our books – but not in blood – with pen and ink.

Here’s the blurb from the Crime Writers of Canada website events calendar:

The 35th Anniversary celebration of the Crime Writers of Canada continues to be at hit at Chapters Newmarket, this time on October 27, 2018.

Join CWC authors Tracy L. Ward, Nanci M. Pattenden, Sharon Crawford, K.J. Howe, Lorna Poplak, and John Worsley Simpson at the Newmarket Chapters for a day of crime.

Hope to see you there.

These are my two Beyond mystery novels that will be at Chapters Newmarket.

The second Beyond book (2014) and first novel

 

The third Beyond mystery book (2017) second novel.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Time Management for Writers – a new take?

I have about reached my wits end about something most authors face at some time. Time, or rather the lack of it to write. The culprits include dealing with house issues, crap shoved at me (read stupid mistakes) by others – individuals and organizations but I have to deal with it (or some of it) at my end. And what is the bane of many of us today – too damn much to do.

I am living in overwhelm and I am fed up with it.

So, I’ve decided on a major overhaul of well, my life. To provide inspiration and ideas I am reading the new book The One Thing: the Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan. Reading it in increments both because of my time and to absorb and try some of the ideas. The jury is out so far on how effective it will be. But right now I am focusing on focusing on the most important thing in my life – writing.

That one was a no-brainer. i knew that, so why was I letting all the crap, including spending too much time on too much business-related email (and that doesn’t include personal emails) , I now set  a imer for doing email in the morning and when it goes off, the  idea is to just finish whatever email I’m doing and then the rest can go to you know where, for now. If something time sensitive comes in (like an author gig that needed a yes or no right away) I will do a quick email reply at some point in the day. I am still having trouble getting distracted, one of the problems mentioned in The One Thing.

Writing (as does other one thing’s people focus on and the book also  mentions) can spawn many branches and for me that includes teaching writing workshops (and all that involves) , editing client’s stories and book manuscripts, doing PR for Beyond Faith, doing more revisions in the current book I am writing and running my East End Writers’ Group.

It also involves me dealing with some bad habits such as:

Not getting enough sleep at night, mainly because…

I end up doing household crap late at night. That has to stop.

Watching TV too late. Stopping after the news and weather at 11.35 p.m. should be it with time to get ready for bed and off to sleep at a reasonable time so I can get seven to seven and a half hour’s sleep instead of the bare five to five and a half hours I’m currently getting. Maybe then I can remember receiving my new credit card in the mail – yes, I found it where I usually put these things and still in the unopened envelope. BUT I HAVE NO MEMORY  OF EVEN RECEIVING IT. So I even wasted time phoning the credit card company to find out if they had even sent it too me.

Like the book says, I have to do less each day and focus more on what I do – writing and some of its branches (see above). And take great pleasure in deleting stuff or at the very least putting it beyond the back burner.

Things like answering emails that aren’t urgent (business or personal), personal phone calls (limited to outside writing time and I think I will have to sit with a timer for my overly chatty friends). I do have vm so people can leave a message.

Things like trying to narrow down how many grocery and related errands I do – not easy when you don’t have a car and don’t drive, and many of your friends don’t either and those that do drive don’t offer to take you grocery shopping so you can get most if not all of it done in one go. Public transit can be good, but there is only so much you can cart onto a bus at one time.

Things like prioritizing the house stuff (unless an emergency), especially the big one that has been taking up a lot of my time and interfering with my health.

Yes, all the stress of worrying and trying to get too much done will hit us in our most vulnerable health areas.

As for actual writing time – that gets penned in (as opposed to penciled in) on my calendar and I’ve been taking the position that it gets done come hell or high water or unnecessary interruptions. Whether telemarketers (phone) or religious people banging on my door, they can all well, you know take the high road to hell.

Or should that be the low road?

How I feel about pesky interruptions to my writing and client work

Now, back to my writing – time to do an hour of book promo for Beyond Faith and then a lunch break. Maybe some of the crap in my life can be dealt with at lunchtime – or one problem.

Happy writing.

Cheers.

Sharon

The latest Beyond mystery.

 

 

 

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Sharon A. Crawford hosts Crime Beat Confidential TV show

Now that I have finally taped the first segment of my TV show Crime Beat Confidential on the Internet channel thatchannel.com I have a few thoughts on doing a TV show.

First some basic info about the show.

Crime Beat Confidential is the new bi-monthly crime interview show hosted by former journalist and now mystery author Sharon A. Crawford https://samcraw.com/. The first segment opens with a short introduction by Private Investigator Dana Bowman, the main character in Sharon’s Beyond mystery series and then segues to Sharon and her guest, James G. Wigmore, a respected forensic toxicologist. Sharon and James chat about alcohol, DUIs and cannabis. James covers not only the legal aspects, but some of the caveats with the current cannabis because as James says, “Not your grandad’s weed.”

Guest James Wigmore, forensic toxicologist and author of Wigmore on Cannabis

View the show here.

The next segment will be in mid-August. Guests will be in various areas of crime – although not murderers, but not all authors either – police officers and private investigators, crime writing and reading organizations. And authors will have something interesting and unique in their books to talk about.

So, how did all this happen?

I have been interviewed by Hugh Reilly on three segments of his Liquid Lunch show (and no, he does not serve us booze) – one segment for each of my Beyond books. Shane at my publisher’s (Blue Denim Press) got me in for the first book Beyond the Tripping Point the end of October 2012 the day after hurricane remnents hit Toronto. Still raining a bit the day of taping and I missed the bullet for overnight power outages which hit houses on my street from next door.

I’m a former journalist for 35 years or so and also as it turns out I have a new interest and apparently some talent for it – acting – comedy mainly. Those of you who follow this blog know that I sometimes dress up as my main character PI Dana Bowman for author presentations. Well with Dana introducing the show segment and then me taking over doing the interview, we had to tape the first part separately to give me time to change back into me

But to back-up – the producer at thatchannel.com asked me to do a show and Crime Beat Confidential was what I came up with including a sample schedule of shows and she loved it. I had to become a member of thatchannel.com to do the show, but that’s okay as it gives me other benefits including being listed as one of their show presenters. See here and also have a member profile.

We were supposed to tape the first segment in June but one of the two guests cancelled at the last minute as she couldn’t get tine off work. They are tentatively scheduled for the August taping and I have a guest booked for the fall taping.

I don’t think I took it too seriously at first.- especially after announcing it at a Sisters In Crime meeting and then had to postpone the taping. Guess I was going on the modus operatndi of “when I see it I will believe it.” or “when it gets taped…

There were a few ups and downs like the links for my first guest and me not being included in the show. But I think that’s been fixed for future shows.

And getting from the idea stage to actually taping took longer than I expected, but “life” gets in the way.

I found the experience of taping that first show very interesting and thought it went well. My guest has experience appearing on TV before, in court, and lecturing. As mentioned, I am a former journalist (print and online) but have also had some experience with TV – cable TV – doing a few interviews and getting interviewed, but mostly working behind the camera, including operating one of the cameras. My cohort in this was in front of the camera – she has a British accent and that goes over well in an interviewer. We were both freelance writers and we collaborated in choosing guests and met with the guests before to get to know them.

So, I am really enjoying doing this TV show – and. yes it is a way to promote my Beyond mystery books, but I get to. interview all these interesting people and learn something. And PI Dana Bowman gets out from between the book covers and well, rant a little as she does the brief introduction.

Again view the show here.

What do you think?

Anyone else using TV to promote their book? How did it go?

Dana Bowman does the into

 

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Beyond Faith on the PR road again

The latest Beyond mystery.

 

Beyond Faith continues in person appearances – the next one is with my writing colleague, Michael Robert Dyet. Our books were published by the same publisher (Blue Denim Press) and launched the same date last fall by Blue Denim Press. So Michael and I are doing some joint (and not the weed kind either) presentations, readings and the like. Besides the book launch we have both done readings at the same library last fall. But this upcoming presentation, next Wednesday, June 27, is the first of this kind and more are in the works. And Michael writes literary fiction and is known as The Metaphor Man. I write murder mysteries and am sometimes mistaken for my main Beyond book character, Dana Bowman.

I came up with the general idea, then narrowed it down to the below blurb. But Michael organized and wrote what we are going to do – it is very interactive with the audience. We don’t want to put people to sleep. We’ve been practicing and still are practicing and fine-tuning as we go. This is the show’s inaugural and are we nervous? You tell me. Nervous energy is good as long as the memory doesn’t pull a blank.

Anyway, here’s the blurb for it to give you an idea what it’s about.

East End Writers’ Group Presents Muskie and Murder

Is there murder in literary fiction and character depth in mystery fiction? Join Michael Robert Dyet, author of the literary short story collection “Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage” and Sharon A. Crawford, author of the mystery novel “Beyond Faith”, for a lively discussion, rapid-fire questions, readings, audience participation and a skit involving story characters. Free. All welcome. Rumour has it that there will be a special guest.

Date and Time: Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Location:

S. Walter Stewart Library (auditorium)

170 Memorial Park Ave. (Coxwell/Mortimer Ave. area)

Toronto

And there will be book characters present including her… (and she is NOT the special guest although she may think she is.)

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

 

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area,  hope to see yhere. If not, you can always read our books. They are available in the usual places, Amazon, Indigo-Chapters and the like including some bookstores – chain and independent – for those who like to visit bricks and mortars stores.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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