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Category Archives: Beyond mystery series

Revisions in Life and in Writing

Beyond Book No. 1 – the short story collection

“Half my life is an act of revision” – John Irving.

Most of us writers are familiar with doing many revisions of their short story, their poem, their novel – whatever they are writing. But did it ever occur to you that our lives are full of constant revisions and we often have to “rewrite” parts of our lives? And that sometimes these life revisions affect our “revisions” in writing.

If this sounds absurd, let me give you a few examples from my life.

From when I was a teenager (back in the grey ages, of course) I wanted to write and get published. I accomplished the first, but the second was not so easy, Around the age of 20 I was writing short stories and when I finally got up the nerve to send them out (in those days by snail mail), I got what I thought was a devastating rejection from a journal in Alberta. “This is not a short story; this is an incident”. I was so upset that I stopped writing short stories and switched to non-fiction – newspaper and magazine articles. But first I took various courses i  magazine and newspaper writing at a local community college.

Then my husband (at the time) and I moved just north of Toronto to Aurora, Ontario. This was the mid-1970s and Aurora, unlike today, was a very small town. But that local college from Toronto had a campus in a smaller town just outside Aurora, so I took another course in freelance magazine and newspaper writing. This class was a turning point – all of the students got published.

My publishing started with me cold-calling a local newspaper in Bradford to pitch a story idea. The idea was actually my husband’s and he had to stand by the phone and give me moral support to call the editor. I was a real chicken then. But I did it. Then I go brave and added, “I also sent you a humorous personal essay.”

tBoth stories were published and I ended up freelancing for that newspaper for a few years, then moved geographically (getting published. i was still in Aurora). I wrote a weekly column on Aurora’s community groups and their activities – first with a newspaper in Newmarket for a year and a half, and then with one in Aurora. There is a story behind those gigs, but that is for another posting. My next regular writing  freelance gig was for the  Toronto Star – at the suggestion of one of the editors at the local paper. So I was freelancing for that newspaper as well as a few small magazines – writing profiles of quirky people (my favourite), theatre reviews, some business stories, stories of local organizations and their members.

And then I moved back to Toronto in fall 1998, and expanded my writing to higher profile magazines, wrote freelance for another Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail and began to focus more on writing health-related articles – something I had become interested in when I started getting migraines.

But this was all non-fiction. Oh, yeah, I wrote a few poems and some were even published – in local newspapers and in a few literary magazines.

But what about fiction? I began writing what would become much later my first novel  in the Beyond mystery series. Actually I started that in Aurora not long before I moved.

And at some point in there I began writing short stories, one story in particular, Porcelain Doll. The idea for that came from my background way back. I was a railway brat – my dad worked as a timekeeper for the CNR and he, Mom and I got free train rides. So I started thinking like a writer. What would happen if? The father in the story is very different from my real father except for working for the railway and the three of us travelling to Grandpa’s farm in the summer.

Porcelain Doll went through many revisions and some of the writing critiques (from various writing groups, including the one I started – the East End Writers’ Group) tore it apart. But I kept on writing it and a few other short stories. Some of these other short stories were published in anthologies.

A new small book publishing company, Blue Denim Press, started up. One of the publishers in this husband and wife enterprise, used to come to my EEWG  group when he still lived in Toronto. so we were familiar with some of each other’s work from there. and after pitching a short story collection idea (originally with two of us authors), the publishers were interested in my stories. But I didn’t have enough stories to make a collection; still I signed a contract, and began writing frantically and furiously. Short stories travelled by email back and forth many many times with many many revisions. It seemed as more than half my life was then in constant revision

But Porcelain Doll finally made the cut and was one of the 13 stories published in Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). From there I (slowly, lots of revisions), I wrote and Blue Denim Press published my (so far) two Beyond mystery series novels – Beyond Faith (2014) and Beyond Blood (2017).

Now I’m writing two books and wondering if I have finally gone mad, crazy, off my rocker (well, I am a senior). One is a memoir, getting my most attention as it is the next one for publication next year, and the third Beyond novel, which has a beginning and I am also doing research with it and a constantly changing the plot outline – much of the changes going through my head.

So you can see where your life going through constant revisions can affect what you write (or don’t write) and when. All from the wisdom in a short story rejection – “this is not a short story; this is an incident”.

I use that one in the short story workshops I teach – but that’s another “story”.

And that’s my cue to get out of Dodge – for now.

Question: What revisions or changes in your life have affected your writing? And how have they done so?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

With Crime Writers Canada at Richmond Green library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing Tips, Writing Quotes and Creativity

Writers need inspiration to keep them writing. Writers’ tips can also help any writing stumbling block, including the biggie “writers block”. I am a big fan and collector of quotes from other writers and I suppose I have a few of my own. I would hope that my 43 years of writing in journalism to fiction and many other categories (yes, even poetry and TV, but not radio…yet), have taught me several somethings about writing.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to share my collection of quotes and writing tips, one at a time, one post at a time on my Facebook author page. To make it a bit more visual, I add either a graphic or photo, which is related, at least somewhat. Sometimes I repeat the graphic or photo if it is relevant to another quote or tip. I do this somewhat daily, and by that I mean on weekdays, except for statutory holidays in Canada which is where I come from.

But writing, like music, is universal. And, no I’m not going to get into a discussion about which is more valid or creative – they both are. Let’s just say I can’t carry a tune and wish I could. So, words are my creative outlet (as well as my garden, but that’s another story).

My family on my mother’s side had creative members, from one first cousin once removed who played guitar, to another once removed who crocheted, made shell sculptors, to my mom whose creation was sewing everything from clothes to curtains. She also knitted and created a garden. Guess where I got the latter from. I also used to sew (when my left eye wasn’t so bad). When I was pregnant with my son I sewed all my maternity clothes. And around about then I started to quilt, mostly wall-hangings, some pot holders and a throw. I also designed some of the wall-hangings. And except for the throw, I did all  my quilting by hand.

My son, Martin, is a musician. He plays a variety of guitars from acoustic to lap steel to regular electric. He plays in a Toronto-based band called Beams and they tour throughout Canada and the US, mainly in small local venues. He has written some music. I think he gets his music smarts from the other side of the family – his dad’s. His dad plays guitar and still jams with other musicians, although he wasn’t big on public performances. Martin plays guitar right-handed, but his dad plays the guitar like Sir Paul McCartney – left-handed. That must have been fun when his dad gave his acoustic Martin guitar to  son, Martin – changing the strings all around. But here’s the clincher as to where the music in Martin comes from. Both Martin and his dad play by ear – they don’t have to memorize.s

Not like yours truly here who has to memorize every  line in every skit I perform in my book promo. Yet, I can teach a writing workshop without notes. It might go back to when I played the piano, when I took piano lessons from age 8 to 15. Every recital piece I had to memorize and when it was something like Debussy ‘s Clair de Lune, I messed up. Here’s my memoir/creative non fiction essay Don’t Look Down about it (and how it connected with my Mom and Dad) published in Smart Set Magazine the online magazine published by Drexel University.

What I’m saying is “creativity is in the blood” and I want to share it. No not the blood; no vampires here. Just some writing quotes and tips. So here is the link to my Facebook author page.and here is one quote not up there – yet. It seems to be my life’s destiny.

Half my life is an act of revision.

  • John Irving.

 And that also includes my writing, although more like all of it, not just half.

 

Cheers.

Sharon

Author of the Beyond mystery series.

 

 

 

 

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Taming your main fiction character.

PI Dana Bowman, main character Beyond books.

She’s done it again. Private Investigator Dana Bowman has jumped out of Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith to run amok in the real world. Is she going too far? Has she taken over?

When your main fiction character takes over your story, what should you do? Scream? Kick her or him back into the manuscript? Go with the flow (or flood)? Or listen to what he or she is saying?

Often you get so deep into writing your short story, novella or novel  that it seems like the story is getting away from you.  You are sitting there writing away in a creative fog or focus (take  your pick) and suddenly  it dawns on you. Hey, just who is writing the story?

First, take a deep breath. A character getting involved in their story  is not always a bad thing. It is a sure sign that your character is alive and you are deeply connected to his life. You know better how he operates because he is telling you this – or so it seems. That can be a good thing. Maybe your story was getting dull with something missing. Then it was as if your character jumped in to save the story? Your character is also telling you who he is and how he acts and speaks..

But what if the character is way off base? Not necessarily adding on to what you envisioned as the latter can be a big help. But what if the character has turned so unrecognizable that he just doesn’t seem to be himself?

Sometimes this character reveal develops your character in ways that makes the plot work better. It is as if you are getting insides from deep down. But….

If your character really seems to have gone off the rails and it is not because he  is drunk, on drugs or hasa psychological condition…then you need to stop and take stock.

Sop writing and sit back. Go over your character descriptions and what you have written in your story so far and remind yourself where you as a writer want to go with this character, with this story and with the two connected.

Ask yourself:

Are your character’s actions and diaogue things he would do and say in character – even when he is angry; even when he is sad? For example, if your character has a habit of swearing when upset, and suddenly is throwing plates,. you .need to step back and think. Was the situation something that would push your character over the edge? And how would he react when pushed over the edge? This latter would tie in with his traits. For example. if big on justice and the law, and somebody in his life has crossed the line – maybe beat up his spouse – would you main character beat up the wife-beater? Is that how hat character would exact justice? Maybe, if you have made this character the type of person who when pushed too far takes the law into his own hands. Or maybe not.

Sometimes you might just need to sit down and have a conversation with your character and ask “Just what were you thinking when you…?

And yes, I do carry on conversations with Dana bowman. But she still leaps out of the Beyond books and does her thing – which consists of mostly dissing me, her author. And she even says she wrote Beyond Faith.

Now tthat’s when you start worrying about your character taking over.

If you want to see Dana Bowman in action, she opens all my Crime Beat Confidential TV shows on thatchannel.com and here is a link. This is the third episode where Dana actually returns later in the show to do some of the interviewing of our guest, a real life private investigator. At least it gets Dana off my back…momentarily.

Now if Dana would just use some of that energy to take care of the crap in my life – you know cleaning the house, doing the dishes.

But she won’t. I didn’t create her that way. She doesn’t  even cook. It’s her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture who cooks.

Maybe i should rethink Dana and have her take cooking lessons in the next Beyond book. Yeah right. the books are murder mysteries so Dana is liable to poison someone with her cooking..

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Using videos to promote your books

Beyond book No. 3

An online presence is crucial for authors to promote their book or books. Posting videos is one way some of us do this, even me who has no clue  how to take videos. Yes, my camera does videos but even with instructions I am video-making challenged – with the techniques. (Note: I focus on improving my still shots with my digital camera and they get posted – not just book promo, but family and friends and my garden).

So, I have had to get creative to get the videos out there. My secret is I let others do the videos in a variety of ways. Here is how videos of me and my books bave gotten out there on the Internet. Hopefully they will give you some ideas.

Doing an Internet TV show

This  one I’ve probably mentioned before. I host Crime Beat Confidential on thatchannel.com which is an Internet TV station based in Toronto. My main Beyond books’ character, PI Dana Bowman opens each show and she even did part of the interview when the guest was a real-life private eye. Here’s the latest episode with guest Lorna Poplak. Dana and I have also guested on Liquid Lunch, hosted by Hugh Reilly on thatchannel.

Guesting on a cable TV show.

A few years ago I guested on a Rogers Cable TV show called Writers and Readers hosted by author Tom Taylor. I actually did two – 10 minute interviews – one about my Beyond books and one about my writing and editing business. Although the show (and actual studio) no longer exist, I do have the two segments, posted on Goodreads (scroll down through the videos; most, if not all of my book promo videos are here)

Letting somebody else video-tape an event or part of an event

Last month I was part of a Crime Writers of Canada panel on Hogtown Homicides: setting our books in Toronto. The five of us did this presentation at a Sisters in Crime meeting. One of the panelists had someone else tape part of it. I gather it was edited and it came out short and sweet. She sent us panelists (and probably others) the link to it. So I posted it on my Facebook page  and on my author gigs and  blog tours page connected to this blog.

Someone else posts a show clip on their website

My most recent Crime Beat Confidential guest, author and researcher Lorna Poplak, who wrote Drop Dead: the horrible history of hanging in Canada, is posting a short clip from her appearance on this show to her website – she even asked my permission to do so and of course, I said “yes”.

Facebook is a good place for me to post links to these and share them with my friends. Also my blog posts are automatically linked to my Facebook author page (which is part of my main Facebook account) and to Linked In. And my website home page, at the bottom of the page, has automatic feeds to the last two author blog posts, which my son, who helped with the website built in.

So, there are ways to get you and your books moving (literally) on the Internet. Maybe you have other ideas for this.

How do  you promote your books using video?

And while we are on the topic, click on the cover of Beyond Faith at the top and it will get you to my Amazon page for my Beyond books . And oh yeah, the latest two author blog posts get there on my author profile. Ditto for Goodreads.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Hogtown Homicides: Setting it in Toronto

Authors are often faced with whether to set their novel in their own backyard so to speak, do a fictionalized place loosely based on their city or town, or create an entirely fictional town or city.

I tend to do a little of both. I have lived most of my life in Toronto, Ontario Canada. In fact I grew up here. So I know a little about some of Toronto’s past. I’m back in Toronto now – for the past 20 years – but I lived just north of Toronto in Aurora, Ontario for 23 years.

Two of my Beyond mystery books have settings in Toronto. Most of the short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point are set in Toronto – from 1965 to present day – not exactly historical, but still Toronto. In the two Beyond novels, Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith, my two main characters, fraternal twins Dana Bowman and Bast Overture set their private investigator agency just north of Toronto – in the fictitious Thurston and Cooks Region – loosely based on Aurora and Newmarket and York Region – so far around the time I lived in Aurora. But Beyond Faith has several scenes with both PIs in Toronto as it was in 1999. And the next book, Beyond Truth (still being researched and written) will have much of it set in Toronto.

What is interesting to me is how and why writers, particularly mystery writers,set their novels in Toronto. (Okay, I am partial to Toronto). And the research they do. Five of us Crime Writers of Canada authors are going to discuss this on a panel April 18. Here are the details and there should be links to their – make that “our” (disclaimer here – yes, I’m on this panel and honoured to be with the other four).

Hogtown Homicides: Setting it in Toronto

Frequently Canadian authors have been told to set their stories in some generic or easily recognizable city in the US, to guarantee sales. Well, this panel has successfully defied those voices and set their works in a very recognizable Toronto. Presented by Sisters in Crime Toronto in conjunction with their friends at Crime Writers of Canada,  Here is the powerhouse panel who loves Toronto.

They will discuss their choices, their research, and the subsequent marketing landscape.

Thursday, April 18, 2019, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Location: Northern District Library, 40 Orchard  View Blvd., Room 200, Toronto

Sisters in Crime members get in free. Non-members $5.00 at the door.

https://www.torontosistersincrime.ca/

Check it all out. And if you live in Toronto or nearby (yes, including York Region), why not come to this presentation and get an earful. We will also have copies of our books to see and sell.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

 

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Public Libraries Help Writers and their Readers

How many times have you been at a table trying to sell your books? Maybe it is a writer’s festival or maybe a church bazaar or some other event. And you get some interest in your book from someone until they look at the price. Then it is “is it available in an e-copy.” Or I don’t have enough cash on me/spent all my money/I’ll be back later when I’m leaving.”

Instead of frowning, yelling, whining or going into extreme book selling mode, why not suggest the person borrow your book from their local library branch? Maybe you don’t think about that because you figure you won’t be paid if someone reads a borrowed copy of your book.

Wrong.

If you as an author have your book(s) signed up with a Public Lending Rights Program (over 30 countries have them), you can receive royalty payments annually. Some library systems base the amount on how many times your books are borrowed or if your book or books are in the library catalogues (tcatalogues are online on most library websites). Canada follows this latter method and the payout annually has to work out to not under $50. But it can go up to $4,000. My Beyond mystery books haven’t reached a $4,000 royalty, but for last year, the amount was more than a 100 per cent increase from 2017.

Canada’s Public Lending Rights Program has a window of time to sign up – usually from sometime in February to May. And then that’s it for another year. Forms are online and are downloadable. This year the timeline ends May 1.

See here for more information on Canada’s program.

So how do you get your books into the library? Most libraries have book submission forms – in print at the branch or online, although sometimes the former are set up for  you to recommend a book by any other author who isn’t you. So get another author you know to recommend your book and you do the same for them.

The best way is to have a librarian get your book in. I have cold-called some librarians and persuaded them to carry my book. Depending on the library I may mention that I have family in their city or town (this has to be true – don’t make up stuff – leave that for your fiction books). Or I may say my books are set in their city or town or a city or town loosely based on their city or town (true for York Region just north of Toronto).

My favourite is actually doing a presentation (with other authors or on my own) or teaching a workshop at a library branch. Now, I have been doing the former for eight years and the latter six years. Particularly if the presentation or workshop is connected to your book – i.e. creating compelling fiction characters and you write fiction. Also, if you are presenting at a library, the librarians usually do order in a few copies of your book ahead of time.

Although one didn’t. So, one of the five of us crime writers reading asked the librarian if copies of our books were available in the library.

No. But they were soon afterwards.

Probably the best-case scenario is the librarian, Janet, at the library branch where I teach one or two workshops a year and my East End Writers’ Group partners with this branch to hold our meetings there. The librarian actually suggested it after we did a presentation at the library and I decided to get the group out of my house to meet and the two places after that where we met briefly went out of business. So, we are in partnership with the library with this and the program gets under the branch programs umbrella. Janet has made sure my three Beyond books are in that branch.

Of course each library system has its own methods for getting in programs and presentations. How I got into some (besides the East End Writers’ Group one) is fodder for another post.

The bottom line is getting your published books into libraries is a win-win-win situation – for your readers, for libraries and for you.

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series

Available for borrowing in the Toronto Public Library system, some in the York Region Library system, etc.

And I am teaching a memoir writing workshop and doing two presentations with other authors, all in Toronto library branches. See my Gigs and Blog Tours Page on this website here to find out when and where.

 

 

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When the muse strikes write?

My Muse?

My muse has been busy this week. Early in the morning, she appears in the last dream  before I wake and she appears with answers, suggestions to the story I’m rewriting.I don’t actually see her or hear her. It is more a short scene showing the story scenario I have been struggling with, and leaving me waking up with an answer of what to write. You see, the more I rewrote the story, the  more I questioned something in the plot. Most of the questioning was under the “does it make sense?” category or the “have I got the police procedure right?’

It is a mystery at a crime scene and there is some police procedure there. But the main character is a civilian who wants answers and is determined to get them. because of who the victim is. So police procedure has to be correct, but it is seen from somebody not really familiar with it. And my character is a fat eccentric senior So the story is not just a mystery, but it has humor, satire.

I did my research and have explicit info from a police sergeant who is involved in investigating homicides. So I’ve been going over what he emailed me to fact check with what I’ve written. And that necessitated some changes and a follow-up email concerning the large binders police now use for interviews of all things. And he caught something else I had in the question wording – where witnesses and suspects are taken for more questioning.

So, like I said before, every time I made a change, another necessary one would pop up.

This story has a submission deadline of a week from now and a maximum word count. So those factor in with writing time and story changes.

So I’ve been lucky with my active Muse. And sitting down at my computer every day and rewriting. And resenting time I have to do other things.

It is only now that I have figured out how my Muse is working. Each day and each evening I mull over what needs to be changed to work in my story and it gets pushed into my unconscious when I get distracted. And I do get distracted a lot – problems coming at me to solve, health issues, other writing and editing stuff, phone calls, computer problems, errands, etc. When I finally get to bed and get some sleep  I have to go through several sleep cycles first and several unremembered dreams to get to the point when my Muse can get through. And she has and I am grateful for that and also for her timing – last dream before I get up.

Now if my Muse would only help me solve all the other annoying problems I have to deal with.

Any day I would much rather do something creative – like write or take photos or in the summer garden then deal with what I call negative problems shoved at me from what I call outside. I can create enough chaos without any help from others.

So, the lesson learned is – when the Muse strikes, WRITE!

How does your Muse work? Do you have a Muse? Do you listen to your Muse?

Cheers.

Sharon A Crawford

riter/Editor/Writing Instructor

Author of the Beyond mystery novel series.

 

 

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