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Category Archives: Beyond mystery series

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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New Year new writing energy

Many years ago I learned something important for writers from freelance writer Paul Lima. Yes, he said you need a Marketing Plan for your writing business,but he added something that is core to this –  You need a vision for your writing business in order to figure out your marketing plan.

Very true. I know that from experience as the last couple of years I didn’t have a vision and only a marketing plan for my Beyond books.. For 2017 I was sick the first part of the year and for last year, let’s just say I had more than my share of problems in all areas, stupid problems, with 80 per cent of them caused by other people or organizations.The rest included health and house issues, I won’t go into a long list, just mention the one that gets the cake (in the face, of course) for the most ridiculous.. My CARP (the Canadian Seniors advocate organization that also publishes Zoomer magazine) membership got messed up by CARP. First, I didn’t get any notification to renew so I phoned. Yeah, I got my membership renewed and a new card last February – dated to expire February 2018. What’s wrong with this number? After raising more than a little hell over the phone and getting the CARP membership advocate involved, I got a replacement card dated to expire February 2019. And I have received a renewal notice for this February.

So, when not dealing with this and other problems, I just dived in and did client work, did some writing, did a lot of promo (and organizing such) for my Beyond Faith mystery novel. Sure, I did my usual daily “to do” list…

But something was missing and something unwanted was there.

The unwanted was the somewhat randomness of it all and lack of any defining vision for my writing.

For 2019 I went back to listening to Paul Lima. And this time I shortened my vision and its marketing plan. It is only one page and under my vision I list three things I am focusing on, three things I envision I want to do (and am doing – hey, it’s already January 4). I’m not going to copy the whole marketing plan, just my vision.

Sharon’s Vision:

Threefold:

  • Write more – memoir book finish; continue writing Beyond Truth, and write more personal essays and short stories for publication.
  • Help other writers with their writing, and at the same time earn more money for me.
  • Sell more Beyond books.

Each part of the vision statement covers what I want to do in 2019. The first one is self-explanatory. The second one covers both my editing for writing clients, doing one-on-one teaching writing sessions, and teaching writing workshops. The last part is also self-explanatory. This second one is both for my clients and me. The third one is also self-explanatory.

My next heading is simply; How I will do this.

And I list, which I’m not going to do here. I did put in for book marketing to go to a separate file. But my book marketing plan is much shorter than the very long one from last year. It is more to the point and organized by month. And it is not sealed in granite or whatever is the digital equivalent. So if January gets clogged with too much, some can be moved to another month.

My last heading is:

Professional Development:

Writers always need to learn something about writing and marketing. Like other things in life it is an ongoing process and any writer who thinks they’ve reached their pinnacle because they are publishing their books or they have steady work writing, teaching writing, etc.. think again. We freelancers know (or should know) that freelance writing and the like is precarious and steady writing gigs can go at the drop of a well, the proverbial hat maybe.

As for Paul Lima, he is still freelancing – but scaled down a lot. Paul has MS and has wisely learned to work around that. He has written and self-published two books on MS which are available online. His previous books on writing and marketing are still available online. He blogs about his MS and shares info on that and his writing on a writer/editor listserve.He also posts regularly to Facebook. And he does get out every day for two hours walking his dog. I suspect the dog and his family are a big help and support (emotional and otherwise) for him. He also has a positive attitude – something we writers need to remember. No point in getting in the dumps about another rejection for a story.

I’m going to finish off here with a few links to Paul Lima’s website, which as all the info about the above on him and more. And also a link to his MS blog, and a story another writer wrote about him and two others who had to relearn how to live their writing career because of various chronic illnesses.

Paul Lima’s website here

Paul’s MS blog here

Paul’s business blog here 

His Dec. 30, 2018 posting is titled My Freelance Writing Resolutions for 2019. Writers take note.

Story here

May your 2019 be joyful and creative.

Cheers.

Sharon A,.Crawford

Writer/Editor/Writing Instructor

Author of the Beyond mystery novel series.

 

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On the road again with my Beyond mystery books

Beyond book No. 3

I’m taking my Beyond books on one last in-person promo for this year and then taking a break until into the New Year. Will still be doing social media. It’s just that I don’t like going out and about much in winter weather. And there is a high risk of having to cancel ane event or going to it because of a blizzard, sub-zero temperatures or some other awful winter stuff. I am not a fan of winter – in fact if it would disappear permanently into a black hole I would be the first to cheer.

And I need the time to continue writing my new Beyond mystery novel, which despite all the house issues, sagas and other problems being shoved at me, I am actually back to working on that novel.

So, I’ll put some brief details of the last of the 2018 Beyond events. But first I want to mention some of the unique ways I get these promos.

I have to be thankful that many come to me from outside and I am grateful for them.

There is my Crime Beat Confidential Show that I host bi-monthly on thatchannel.com. The station’s show producer approached me – probably because i had made some appearances as a guest on their Liquid Lunch Show. I get a lot of fun, learning and meeting interesting people who guest on my show. My book character PI Dana Bowman appears at the beginning of each show. And in the one just taped this week, she does the second half of the show interviewing the guest – a private investigator. The show is not taped live and some editing is done, so when it’s up I’ll post the link. Meantime you can watch the other two on thatchannel. com under “Shows” or Google “Crime Beat Confidential and Youtube” and see it posted by the station on Youtube.

As a member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and the Toronto Heliconian Club, I get a chance to take part in their author readings, book signings at bookstores, libraries, conventions, writers festivals, artistic shows and sales. They send out emails on this looking for us author members to participate and we  have to get back. Now, for some there is a limit of how many participants, but I have been lucky to get in on those – even some out of town. And there it is other members participating in the same event who give me a lift there – sometimes we have a car load of authors heading ouit of town and it is so much fun.

Those are just some examples. My point, beside being grateful, is authors – whether self-published or published by a trade publisher, can benefit by joining an organization that has some literature and/or writer component to help promote their books. And it’s not all  one-sided as by participating you sometimes get the chance to organize the event. And you meet interesting authors and readers. And sell some books. Don’t be all social media and no in-person promo. Sometimes readers like to see the real person and not just see what thay look like, but how they act, how theiy interact,,how they come across in their knowledge about writing, and in my case, just dressing up like my main character and letting her take over.

Beyond Book No. 2

And on that note, I’ll just list the last two events for 2018 and hope those in the Greater Toronto area in Ontario, Canada can make one of these events.

GIFTS FROM THE MUSES-

Saturday, Nov. 24, 11 am to 4 pm.

Toronto Heliconian Club

35 Hazelton Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

All my Beyond books – Beyond the Tripping Point, Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith will be on display and for sale at the annual Club show and sale “Gifts from the Muses”  which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 24. There will also be a wall of paintings and photographs, all selling for $100 or less. In addition, members from all sections will sell hand-made products such as unframed art works, cards, books, CDs, jewelry, jams, baked goods, etc. Along with the sale, members of the Music Section will entertain with short musical interludes each hour. This is one of the best multi-disciplinary events in the Club and is so much fun to attend! It is a great opportunity to purchase outstanding gifts for family and friends!
More info on The Toronto Heliconian Club, including a map for their location here

Also at The Heliconian Club

An Evening of Readings of Literature Section Members
·
Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 6:30 PM – 9 PM

Sharon A. Crawford will read excerpts from her Beyond Mystery series novels: Beyond Blood and the latest, Beyond Faith. She is joined by two other Heliconian Club Literature group authors: Ann Elizabeth Carson and Isabel Berchem for this Evening of Readings. Hosted by Christine Arthurs. Refreshments and a cash bar.

Cost: Free for Heliconian Club members and $10. for all others.

Beyond Book No. 1 – the short story collection

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Creative Nonfiction intersecting with memoir and fiction?

I’m teaching a new writing workshop called Memoir as Creative Nonfiction. Although both are nonfiction and therefore must be truthful or as Lee Gutkind’s book stays You Can’t Make this Stuff Up. But you can use fiction techniques (emphasis on “techniques”) to tell your true story. Mr. Gutkind should know – he has been dubbed the Godfather of Creative Nonfiction.

As this blog primarily focuses on fiction writing, I’m going to give a brief look at this technique.

Let’s suppose you are writing a book about your parents emigrating to Canada or to the United States in whatever year they did so. Remembering that you must tell the truth (at least as best as you remember it and your research backs you up). Maybe you are a journalist and so you deal with facts. Truth is important in newspaper, magazine (print or online) stories too. And yes I know that’s not always the way they are written. So using your journalism background you do your research on how and when your parents emigrated. Yes, you interview your parents (let’s presume they are stlll both living)  for their story, but you do some online research for perhaps the boat they came across on. What was going on in the country they came from, etc.  All good…until  you start writing your story which you write something like this:

My parents were born in Germany in World War 11 – my father in 1936 and my mother in 1937. My mother was Jewish and along with her  parents and two siblings, was sent to a concentration camp in Poland in 1943. Her older brother didn’t survive. At the end of the war the Allies freed her parents from the concentration camp. Because of their ordeal, they decided to emigrate to Canada.

Boring!. Methinks the author is hiding her parents story behind her journalism. It doesn’t even make an interesting magazine story.

How did her parents, particularly her mother, feel about living during World War 11 in Germany? What was their life like – in the  eyes of a young child? How did she feel about losing a brother in such horrific circumstances? (research can be used to back up fact – for example dates, location.) So many questions that can be answered by writing like it was fiction, i.e., use dialogue, suspense, literary techniques like metaphor and simile and make her mother and father appear real – e.g. how did they feel? The writer has talked to her parents for goodness sake.

As this is someone else’s story,  I’m not going to rewrite it for you. But I’ll give a brief example from my memoir in the works and true stories based on it.

Here’s one which is somewhat self-explanatory.

Stuck firmly in this unknown, like a fly to flypaper, was Dad’s cancer, (From Don’t Look Down,”  copyright 2018 Sharon A. Crawford)of

And here’s the beginning of my recounting of a disturbing incident in the middle of the night. I was eight at the time.

One late night, loud pounding on the front door wakes Mom, Dad and me. Like the servant heeding the master, we all trip out to the front entrance. Mother turns on the veranda light and yanks the door open.

 “Do you know this man?” A police officer stands on our veranda. His right hand supports the shoulder of a dishevelled man.

“Uh, home,” the man says.

The stench of his breath assaults my nostrils and I jump back behind Mom, then peek out. The man’s oily black hair lies flat. Night shadow and red blotches compete for attention on his face. He is bare from his neck to his dark trousers. Looking closer, I see blood dribbling down from a deep slice on his left cheek onto his chest. His eyes look bloodshot and vague. A black mass is stamped above his left eye.

“Home?” he asks again.

“Sharon, go back to bed,” Dad says. “This is not for little girls.”  (From Deconstructing My Demons, copyright 2018 Sharon A. Crawford)

You can see some of the fiction techniques used – dialogue, the characters  and some of what they were like – real people, my inner thoughts and feelings, and use of the senses such as hearing (both dialogue and the pounding on the door) and lots of visual.

So it’s not fiction. It is memoir. Is it also creative nonfiction?

My workshop will reveal all – at least as much as can be done in one and a half hours including discussion with participants and a short writing exercise.

Here are the details for the workshop.

Memoir as Creative Nonfiction

Can memoir be creative non-fiction? In this workshop, author and editor Sharon A. Crawford will explore the many forms of Creative Non-fiction and Memoir and how they can intersect. Excerpts from published works will be used to start a discussion. Through writing exercises, participants will get the chance to begin their own creative non-fiction memoir and get a quick critique. Free.

Call 416-396-3975 to register.

Location: S. Walter Stewart Library, 170 Memorial Park Avenue, Toronto, Ontario Canada

Date and Time: Tuesday, October 16, 2018, 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m.

And here’s a photo of my late Mom and Dad, who did not emigrate to Canada, but our ancestors did in the 1800s.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

author of the Beyond Mystery series and also memoir.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharon and Dana and Beyond books at Word on the Street

The latest Beyond mystery. (2017).

 

But before I talk about being there, first a word about Word on the Street (WOTS).

It’s an outdoor festival for books and magazines and much more that is related – panels of authors, author readings, author presentations, publishers, agents, magazine editors, writing organizations, children’s area, etc.

It’s currently in its third location at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West by Lake Ontario in Toronto, Canada

It is free to get in. But you can spend a lot (or a little) money on books, magazines and magazine subscriptions, and food

It is for readers and writers – and often that’s the same person.

It is a great place to meet other writers and readers.

It is a great family outing as well as great for individuals.

It runs this Sunday, September 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More info here

And at this point, the weather is supposed to be cool and sunny.

I’ll be there at two booths with my Beyond Books (see below for book titles and cover shots) and will also have flyers for  the following:

my East End Writers’ Group, which meetsvthe last Wednesday of the month (excl. Aug. and Dec.) at S. Walter Stewart Library

Another War Between Mystery Fiction and Literary Fiction Presentation I do with Michael Robert Dyet (literary short story collection Hunting Muskie, Blue Denin Press fall 2017) Oct. 23 at Annette Street Library, and

my new writing workshop, Memoir as Creative Nonfiction which I’ll be teaching Oct. 16 at S. Walter Stewart Library

And my appearances for book selling and signing at WOTS:

2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. at the Crime Writers of Canada booth

4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sisters in Crime Toronto booth

Before that I’ll be checking out a few other booths. As for Private Investigator Dana Bowman from the Beyond books – she thinks she will be running around there, but we’ll see about that.

Speaking of the Beyond books – here they are:

Short story collection (2012)

The third Beyond book (2014)

 

The third Beyond mystery (2017)

 

See you there.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Book Promo by Serendipity

The latest Beyond mystery.

I have learned that just having a Marketing Plan to promote my Beyond mystery books (and following it, even) is not always the most lucrative way to do it. The late great John Lennon was right when he said “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.” And so it has been happening with me lately.

In late July I was in the thatchannel.com  studio,  or rather the main character, PI Dana Bowman, in my Beyond mystery books was being interviewed on the weekly Liquid Lunch show. Three people interviewed Dana – the show’s host, Hugh Reilly and two authors – Jen Frankel (genre fiction) and Dave Boyle (literary fiction). Both Jen and Dave passed along to me a couple of places to do author presentations. And Dave even took it one step further – getting it in motion. This one is that joint presentation literary author Michael Robert Dyet (author of the short story collection Hunting Muskie) and I do – The War Between Mystery Fiction and Literary Fiction. After much to-ing and fro-ing on my part with Dave and the librarian, Michael and I are now scheduled to do our presentation at the Annette Street Library branch in the west end of Toronto, 6.30 p.m., Tuesday, October 23. And we can bring book copies to sell. If you want to see some photos from this presentation we did the end of June at the S. Walter Stewart library branch, visit my website here.

Jen suggested an east end Toronto advertising company that has author readings and emailed me the info afterwards. I still have to follow-up on that one.

Perhaps the most serendipitous one is with my neighbour, Bob. Bob is a retiree who with his wife, Norma Jean, now collects wine and pop bottles and donates the money he gets for them to local kids’ sports leagues for their uniforms and equipment. So he gets my few empty wine bottles when he comes by with his buggy. We also chat then. A month or so ago he told me about another neighbour who would be doing a cable TV show interviewing local people doing interesting unusual things and he was going to be a guest. So, I piped in about being a published mystery author and he jumped in and asked questions about that. Turns out he and his wife are big mystery fiction readers and have a huge collection of books. He asked me about mine and where they could get copies.

So, since then he has bought a copy of all three of the Beyond books from me – this month. The local TV show hasn’t started yet, but who knows…

And Monday some of my cousins came to visit Toronto for the day. We are all avid gardeners so went to the Toronto Botanical Gardens and then came back to my place to see my garden. Then we went to dinner at a local restaurant. It was there that I mentioned Beyond Faith – as they hadn’t been able to come to the Book launch for it last fall. Two of them who are big mystery readers wanted to buy a copy, so it was back to my place for them to do so before they headed for home.

That’s five Beyond books sold this month that was not part of my marketing plan.

Sometimes it is good to give serendipity a chance.

Hey, we writers have story ideas come to us from wherever. Why not let book sales come to us some of the time?

The only thing we have to do is mention our books unless like with the Liquid Lunch show the info is already part of what is going on.

And if you want to find out about the upcoming (so far) Beyond gigs go here and scroll down  and a workshop I’m teaching called “Memoir as Creative Nonfiction” – which has nothing do with mystery writing, go here.

I’m not the “M and M” lady for nothing (and I don’t mean those scrumptious chocolate and peanut butter candies, but Mystery and Memoir – that’s what I write)

And here’s the link to that Liquid Lunch segment where Dana Bowman appeared. thatchannel.com does have it on its website, but this You Tube link is quicker.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

PI Dana Bowman guests on Liquid Lunch

 

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Putting your writing out there – whatever way

sharon at CWC Arthur Ellis short list Marilyn Kay photo

We. all have to start somewhere to get our writing out there – first for publishing and then to promote the published work. Both can involve some reading in public. But getting out of our comfort zone of behind our laptop, Ipad, etc. isn’t easy at first. Our “audience” might not like our work. They might say rude things about it – like “don’t give up your day job soon.” They might not get what we are writing. Or maybe deep inside there is a fear of …not failure, but success.

Oh sure, I can say that easily, you think. I, who do live skits and TV shows featuring Dana Bowman, my author readings – alone or with other authors, which come across more as acting then reading. I who teach writing workshops and courses. I, who approach venues to do some of the aforementioned. And let’s not forget my 35 years as a freelance journalist which required much story pitching.

Dana Bowman does the into

It’s that last phrase that is important. Not the 35 years, but the years of experience. Maybe being a senior has something to do with it, too. Where you know your life length is ticking away so you (or I do) tend to take some chances you wouldn’t maybe do otherwise. I also am known as a big mouth – not just having a loud voice. I say what I mean and sometimes I’m blunt. Taking after my late mother? Maybe, but as I said, age can make a difference.

But it was not always this way and I’m not referring to age. Let me give some examples.

When I was 20 I began submitting short stories to magazines. One editor, of a now defunct magazine wrote a note back about one story “This isn’t a short story; this is an incident.”

I was so incensed, so upset that I gave up writing short stories for years.

But I didn’t give up writing. I just switched – to journalism, which I had been interested in anyway. I took many journalism courses at what is now Ryerson University in Toronto and at Seneca Community College. After the Seneca course in 1976, where every student in the course got published somewhere on their own merits and with good suggestions from the instructor), I started pitching stories to local newspapers

Not without trepidation. My first story pitch was about a local noisy ratepayers group.My then husband had to stand by me at the phone while I called and talked to the editor. When the editor said to “send the story” I got a little brave and mentioned that I had sent him a humorous personal essay and he said he would check it.

Both were published as were many more. And after those two, for journalism stories I just pitched the idea first. Personal essays, like fiction, you usually write first and pitch after. I also moved along to other local newspapers – at the request of their editors. So I wrote a weekly community news column for first one newspaper and then another.

But that didn’t go smoothly all the time. For the first one, the editor forgot to tell the current community news columnist that she was fired. She found out when I called her in her capacity as spokesperson for a community group for info. Oops.

At this newspaper I really messed up. Six months after I started writing my column , the editor of another newspaper asked me if I wanted to switch and write a similar column for them. Although the pay was higher, I declined out of loyalty to the first paper, because of the short time writing the column.

The following year the first newspaper gave me a raise of the princely sum of $5.00 a week. So when the “new” (as in a year and a half) columnist for newspaper no. 2 told me she was moving out of the area and so leaving the newspaper (yes, we “rivals” knew each other – covering the same events. Hey, a reporter from the first newspaper and a reporter from the second newspaper got married – they met covering town council meetings. Both became my friends and they are still married, although they each went on to different jobs and are now retired).

So I ate crow and phoned the editor at the second newspaper and said I had heard E. was leaving and I was now interested in writing the community news column for his newspaper. He gave me an appointment to go in to see him. By then my husband and I were separated – we had a preschooler son ,so there I was pushing his stroller into my interview with the editor.

I got the column and wrote it for six years until the publisher canned the column. I had also been writing community theatre reviews and feature articles. After the column went, I did some freelancing for several other local papers and then move don to the Toronto newspaper and magazine market – and other area magazines. Not all smooth sailing, which is one of my points. Like everything else in life, you get some bumps in the road. Each bump you handle adds to your experience and your confidence, although if you are like me, you still sometimes worry about it.

As for my reading, skits and TV appearances with my books, that’s from experience, too.Teaching the writing workshops helped develop confidence in front of other people.This for someone who in high school nervously took part in a class debate. Reading – I just practice before hand. Ditto the skits. And I have a little secret. I am terrible at memorizing scripts when I am acting with another person. Even on my own, I forget lines. So I improvise and make sure I have a script handy.

And the short story writing? I went back to it about 12 years ago – had some stories published in anthologies and my first Beyond mystery book, Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) was a collection of 13 stories.

Also to get a little practice in getting your writing out there and in reading,and some feedback, join a writing critique group. I blog about that here.

Cheers.

Sharon A,. Crawford

 

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