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Category Archives: Beyond the Tripping Point

Getting ideas from your garden

Scene from my garden

Many of us writers are also gardeners. I’m not sure why. Both are creative although not in the same vein. One we create with words and the other we create with colour, design and more practically for food to eat. Writing is more in the head and gardening requires a lot of physical exercise. So maybe the two provide balanced living.

For example, when something about a story I’m writing hits a stalling point, I go out in the garden. Often I end up pulling weeds. Like the bad things in life irritating me, which I want gone, I want the weeds gone. And sometimes when someone or some entity (read big utility company and the like) has messed up something in my life, I give the weeds names as I yank them out and pitch them in the yard waste bin. And yes, when I’m done in the garden I often have an idea how to deal with the problem person or entity.

And I often get a story idea – like the short story I’m writing and rewriting about telemarketers.

So, let’s see how something in the garden can bring about a story idea. Let’s take something common in people’s gardens – wildlife trespassing and doing damage. In particular raccoons getting into the garbage and creating a mess. I used that idea as part of the plot in my first Beyond novel Beyond Blood. I had someone doing a series of break and enters one summer also leaving a dead raccoon at some of the places. There was a reason for it and not to punish raccoons for causing damage. You’ll have to read Beyond Blood to find out what.

But raccoons or any other animal doing garden damage can conjure up several story ideas: a rash of garbage and recycling bins being knocked over in a neighborhood on collection days. Raccoons? Or something else. Maybe a red herring for something really bad going on. Perhaps someone in the neighborhood wants to sell their property to a developer and his or her neighbors don’t want to. Or vice versa Maybe a developer wants to tear down some old houses to put up condos. So someone (depending on your story’s angle) might be imitating raccoon actions to make the area no longer livable for the residents and so they will want to sell, but not get caught.

Or back to the weeds for another story idea. Whose name are you using when you pull a weed and why? What’s the problem the person is causing? Take it from there but fictionalize it.  Like I did with the telemarketer story. I wrote it somewhat tongue in cheek but it is a murder mystery (well, that is what I write). I decided to take a crack at telemarketers and created a fictitious telemarketing firm and had a gardener and a non-gardener who are friends go after that company. And that’s all I’ll say.

And from that, you can see your story characters don’t all have to be gardeners. In my Beyond series, neither PI Dana Bowman or her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture are gardeners, but gardens and gardening appear in two of the short stories featuring them in Beyond the Tripping Point. In “Road Raging”, the twins traipse through a garden gone dormant in the fall – they are after a road rager. In “Digging Up The Dirt” inside a garden centre  something poisonous in it is featured.

Want more ideas? Watch the old BBC series Rosemary and Thyme which has two gardeners who are hired to fix large estate gardens in England and always run into murder. One of the two women gardeners is a former police detective. Sometimes PBS runs reruns but it is also available ion You Tube.

Or if you want something currently running on TV on one of the specialty channels – try Midsummer Murders – often takes place in a large beautiful English country garden although murders are investigated by police, not gardeners.

Take a look at the photo from my garden at the beginning of this post. Does it give you an idea for a story?

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series. Latest Beyond Faith. Here is one of the other Beyond books mentioned in the post above. Click on it for more info about it and the other two Beyond books.

 

 

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Unexpected snafus when marketing your book

Click on book for more info

I love promoting my Beyond books – in person (alone or with other authors) or on social media. Sure, it is a lot of work but it can get very creative. However, one thing, actually many things have come up, under one category to slow or stop the process – snafus from outside sources, particularly connected to computers and other digital stuff.

Here’s what I’ve been dealing with to promote Beyond Faith. Warning: some of it might sound a bit odd and at least unexpected and unwelcome.

My Beyond books are available online in both paperback and e-copy in many outlets world-wide. But to get them in bookstores the bookstore has to order them in at either my request or someone who walks into a bricks and mortars bookstore and wants a copy. If I have already persuaded the bookstore to order in a copy, then the customer can buy it. Otherwise it can be ordered in.

That’s the way it is supposed to work and has with Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood. My publisher’s distributor sends electronically all the info to all these bookstore.

Not for the Indigo Chapters Coles chain. And this was not the chain’s fault. Imagine my surprise when I went into a Coles bookstore and the manager was so enthusiastic to order in Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood and have me do a book signing, but when she went to order them in (while I was there) no problem with BB, but she couldn’t do so with BF. She advised me to contact my publisher and when it was fixed she would order them in and set up a book signing.

I emailed my publisher right away and he got on it right away, even ccing me with his email to the distributor. A customer service guy from the latter emailed me and said it was being forwarded to their tech dept. to fix. Yes, it was a computer glitch from the distributor. Since then, my publisher let me know it has been fixed so I emailed the bookstore manager and just hope this message hasn’t screwed up her still wanting to order in my books and have me do a book signing.

And the bookseller company isn’t completely guilt-free as there is another problem – the book cover for Beyond Faith shows fine on their website for ordering in for the e-copy but for the print copy (which presumably can now be ordered in) shows no book cover  – just a standard book graphic with the message that the book cover graphic isn’t available. I contacted the bookstore online customer service and got an email that I had to contact the new author section and gave me an email. Somebody from there emailed me and said they could fix it if i emailed them a jpeg of the book cover – and proceeded to give me the size and dimensions and dpi required and the file name to use. i had to find the larger book cover graphic on my computer . Even with my organized file system it wasn’t that easy to find and then I had to rename file and find it again. And yes I used my computer’s Search function.

It doesn’t help that I have limited sight in my left eye.  Which explains any typos I may have not caught and corrected after reading the preview of my posts.

But I sent the book cover graphic and got a reply that the jpeg is okay but it will take a few days for them to get fixed.

At least all the replies to me from the bookseller customer service, etc. came quickly

Like I said I like doing book promo – the legwork – in person and the finger work online including social media. But trying to remedy others mistakes? Especially technical ones?

Nah!

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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Catching story ideas on the fly

 

I’m a writer as rarely as possible, when forced by an idea too lovely to let die unwritten.

– Richard Bach

Our story ideas may not be as esoteric as Richard Bach’s – he wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Where can we get story ideas and when we get them, what do we do with them?

Story ideas often pop into our heads when we are busy doing something else or more likely when our mind hits a lull. Or we are reading an article in the daily newspaper or the classifieds (online or in print) and our right brain, the creative side, suddenly wakes up. A conversation overheard on a bus, especially those cell-phone monologues, conversations overheard in restaurants can suggest several story ideas, often of the criminal intent. Brochures on community groups, art shows, and even the supermarket flyers can inspire. Take the old (former) Dominion supermarket slogan, “We’re fresh obsessed,” and try to look at a story angle that is fresh. Taking a shower or bath is also guaranteed to fill you with more than water. The Internet is full of potential story ideas. Don’t underestimate the power of dreams. Drugs and alcohol are not recommended as you will see from the following example.

Late one night a photographer friend once thought he had a brilliant idea. He scribbled it down on a piece of paper before he crashed for the night. When he woke the next morning, he looked at the paper. On it he had written, “I am very drunk.”

Another moral from this story is look at photographs. A picture is worth a thousand words, but before the words come the ideas.

What do you do when an idea hits? Grab it before it disappears into the nether area of your mind. Write it down. Keep a notebook (electronic or paper) handy. If you think faster than you type or scrawl, use a recorder for dictating your ideas. If the source is the Internet, bookmark it under the heading “Story ideas.”

Then let the idea rest for at least a few days. The idea will simmer in your subconscious and when you sit down at your computer, the act of starting to write will draw out these ideas. On rare occasions, a simmering story suddenly bubbles and you are compelled to write it right now. Do so – if you don’t you might not only lose the momentum, but the idea as well. Nothing, except maybe a blank screen, is worse than an idea gone stale because it was left in storage beyond its best date.

Follow the advice of Martin Woods, who said,

“Write great ideas down as soon…”

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery novels – whose ideas came from all of the above.

And if you click on the Beyond Faith cover icon at the top, it will take you to the one of the online places the novel is available – as well as more details about the novel itself.

 

 

 

 

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After the book launch of Beyond Faith

The book launch for Beyond Faith was held by Blue Denim Press on Sunday and while not attracting large crowds, we had people there. And we all enjoyed ourselves. My main book character PI Dana  Bowman and a few more of the quirky characters  – Bast Overture – Dana’s fraternal brother and PI partner, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding – head of Major Crimes, David, Dana’s son, and a couple of new characters for the novel – Eli Foster and the nameless one all appeared from my reading. And I only read a couple of short excerpts within 15 minutes. But I read as l like to say – putting myself into the characters’ heads and shoes.

 

Photo courtesy Martin Crawford

At least I was awake then (Don’t let that photo here mislead you. I am listening to my friend and apparently trying to sign my book which she bought and looking at something not in the photo.) Unlike now, when I feel like I’m one of the walking dead and Halloween isn’t quite here as I write this. But it was worth it at the book launch.

So what have I learned from this book launch?

Good side – people invited will come – most let you know they are coming but some just show up. And they buy books – some even bought a copy of the previous novel Beyond Blood.

Bad side – those who RVSP’d they were coming, and didn’t bother to let me know that they couldn’t make it after all. Let’s put it this way – I know who you are and my take on you has gone down a notch.

Good side – those who RVSP’s they were coming, then couldn’t at the last minute and let me know. I can understand and accept that. Stuff happens at the last minute. And I won’t bite off your head because you did tell me.

Good side – Meeting and reconnecting with friends including a fellow I worked with in both our first jobs as teenagers (well late teens) for the Ontario Government. I first contacted him via Linked In. So don’t be too quick to complain about Linked In. Thanks to Linked In, I have reconnected with a former editor, a cousin who is now living in Asia. And I have found editing work via Linked In.

Bad Side – More people would have been nice. Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point brought in more people. But from what I’ve seen with other book launches I’ve gone to this year, evening launches seem to attract the largest number of people.

Good Side – some of those people who couldn’t make the launch because of previous commitments want to buy a copy of Beyond Faith – one already has.

And so the book promotion will continue.

But first I need to catch up on some sleep.

And then start kicking things I “have” to do; things others want me to do – out the window.

But I’ll open the window first.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Here’s the book. Click on it for a link to one place the book is available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Beyond gang head for Word on the Street Sunday

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

It’s official – Sharon A. Crawford and Dana Bowman will be at Word on the Street – the big annual book an magazine at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Still up in the air is if Dana will be kept inside the covers of Beyond Blood or if Sharon will let her out. Sharon is set to appear at the Crime Writers of Canada booth from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the company of four other crime authors. All will have copies of their books to sell, but also to talk about Crime Writers of Canada.

Dana will need a briefing if she is to do some of this. And Dana likes to follow her own ideas. She is a private investigator after all. But Sharon is a former journalist and she also like to stick her nose into things.

The other appearance is one author and one other volunteer for Sisters in Crime Toronto’s booth from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. – perhaps more to Dana’s liking to appear here.

That will have to be sorted out on Sunday. For now, let’s talk a bit about Word on the Street, CWC and SinC Toronto.

Sharon here….

I’ve been going to Word on the Street almost since it started in 1990. The first few years the location was Queen Street West from Spadina to Bathurst St. – not a particularly long stretch. But it sure seemed like it if you wanted to go to a specific booth at one end and another one at the other end, particularly if you were on a time-line to get to a workshop or reading or signing in a particular tent. The booths lined up in the street on both sides, plus the crowds moving through, made it difficult. And the availability of washrooms was limited to coffee shops and restaurants with long lineups – unless you wanted to use the portable toilets.

Fast forward to September 2007 and WOTS was now being held at Queens Park – no not in the legislature building or other Ontario Government buildings, but in an actual park, a circular park with booths positioned all along the east and west walkways and at the front and bottom. You could cut across the park to get to bootha on the other side – or walk along the circular walkway. Some tents were in the actual park. The setting was very relaxed and yes, there were portable toilets but also washrooms in nearby Victoria College on the University of Toronto campus. The college also held their annual book sale the same day, so it was a big day for books – the print kind.

At the 2007 WOTS I did my first appearance in a tent talking about freelance writing – interviewing techniques and the like. I was also running a course (in my house no less) a couple of weeks after and this WOTS talk was a great opportunity to get participants for that. It was also a lot of fun as I called people up from the audience to be the interviewee while I played interviewer for role playing. And my son and his then girlfriend, dropped in to watch the proceedings.

In future WOTS at Queens Park, I appeared at the Crime Writers Canada booths to promote and sell the Beyond books. One year the CWC booth was facing the sidewalk instead of the street, so it attracted less people. The location had some personal history with me. The CWC booth faced the Ontario government building where i had my first job at age 18 and 19 when I was a secretary (in another life, of course).

This Sunday, September 24, WOTS is in its third year in its third location- Harboufront Centre on Queens Quay West on Toronto’s waterfront. I have mixed feelings about it. On the plus side you are on the waterfront and the events are outside and some indoors. Some areas seem a bit crowded and the first year I was there, the SinC booth was at the end side of a long group of tables of various organizations. To get to the SinC spot you had to go in at the other end. At that end one of the poetry societies held were readings. The poet stood on the table and performed his or her poetry.

We’ll see how it goes this year and what Dana does and says if she doesn’t stay between the book covers.

Beyond Faith won’t be there – it’s still at the printers. But the flyers for the book launch will be and so will copies of Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point.

Maybe I’ll see you there. Look for one or both of us – Dana’s photo is at the top and mine is below here.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

and

Dana Bowman

 

Sharon A. Crawford author of the Beyond books

 

 

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Beyond book character Dana Bowman dives into new mystery

Dana Bowman escapes from Beyond Blood again.

Note from Dana: We are a day late here because Sharon and I were busy going through proofs of our new Beyond mystery novel –Beyond Faith. But I really have to leave the rest of that for now and see what’s what with Carla Dugan, David’s teacher. So it’s back to late fall 1999.

Dana: You better come in. And David, we’ll talk later.

Dana takes Ms. Dugan and David upstairs to the Attic Investigative Agency office and after introductions with Bast are made, gets right on it.

Dana: Okay, Ms. Dugan why did you take my son out of school?

David: Mommy. I took her out. She looked sad so a recess I asked her what’s wrong and said my mommy and Uncle Bast could fix it.

Dana: Hm. Very well…for now. So tell me about your brother Wayne.

Ms. Dugan: He didn’t do those break and enters. He wasn’t even in town when some of them happened.

Dana: Then why do the police suspect him?

Ms. Dugan: Because the suspects are his friends.

Dana: So guilty by association?

Ms. Dugan: I suppose that’s what the police think.

Dana: Well, that is often true.

Ms. Dugan: Not if you don’t see them anymore.

Dana: Wait a minute. You just said the other suspects were his friends and then insinuated they are not. I’m confused.

Ms. Dugan frowns: Oh all right. They are three old school friends of Wayne. Back in high school they were known as the Four Avenging Amigos because they used to help people, well, their friends in trouble. That wasn’t always exactly legal. Well…they were teenagers.

Dana: Did that help include any break and enters?

Ms. Dugan shrugs: Sort of. One or two when one classmate stole something belonging to another, they would break into the thief”s house and get the item back. And sometimes if they thought parents were being er, unreasonable, they broke in and did a little vandalism. But they didn’t take anything.

Dana: So that makes it all right?

Bast: Dana, let Ms. Dugan finish…

Dana: Fine. Go on

Ms. Dugan: Not much else except Wayne hadn’t seen these friends for a few years. He’s been living in London Ontario and had just moved back to Thurston for a new job. He has been staying with me until he gets his own place. Money, you know.

Dana: I see. So tell me about this screwdriver business outside the hardware store.

David: Ms. Dugan’s brother was buying them to fix a door.

Dana: David, what did I say?

David: Mom. Okay. Keep quiet.

David makes the zip-the-lip motion.

Ms. Dugan: The screwdrivers were really to fix a door hinge. It still needs fixing as the cops took the ones Wayne bought. We were only getting new screwdrivers because mine seem to have disappeared.

Bast: Disappeared? Just recently?

Ms. Dugan: I don’t know. I don’t do my own home repairs.

Bast: Then, who does.

Ms. Dugan: Stan, my next door neighbour. But he’s in hospital now so I asked Wayne to fix the door. It is off one hinge and when you open and close it, I’m afraid it will fall off on someone.

Bast: Which door is that?

Ms, Dugan: The front screen door of course.

Dana: You were in a bit of trouble last month, when that maniac tried running you off the road. (See  * below after this post).

Ms. Dugan: I was a victim.

Dana: I know. I saw it happen when I was picking David up from school. Remember?

Ms. Dugan: Right. And you two did find out who the culprit was. That’s why I’m here… and at David’s insistence, too.

Dana: I was wondering if all this pointing the finger at you and possibly Wayne has something to do with that.

Ms. Dugan: Oh, so you will take my case?

Bast: Let’s say we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for now.

Dana: But we will look at all possibilities. Now, we will need to speak to Wayne and we will need the contact info for his friends to talk to them, too.

Ms. Dugan: Okay, Wayne is of course..

A loud sound like a thump comes from downstairs. Then the sound of glass breaking.

Bast: Stay here. Dana, call 911.

Dana grabs her cell. As the twins head for the main stairwell, they hear footsteps coming up the other stairway – the one for the Attic Agency. And footsteps right behind them.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

*From “Road Raging” in Beyond the Tripping Point  (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Ms. Dugan and the TD bank manager were targetted for  allegedly causing an accident which rendered a five-year old girl a vegetable existence.

 

Click on the book for more info.

 

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Show not tell in fiction

The second beyond book.

How many times have you read (or written) a scene in a novel or short story that reads something like this?

John decided to tell Mary off and do it loudly.

“Mary, you are a disgrace to the club,” John yelled.

What’s wrong here?

It not only tells the reader what John is going to do,but then puts the same thing in dialogue.I call this overkill and is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. It is equivalent to hitting them on the head and slapping them in the face. Show, not tell the reader works better.

So, what can you do here? Delete the narrative where it tells what John plans to do and go right to the dialogue. Of course this is taken out of context (NOTE: not anything in particular – just off the top of my head  – before said head was hit, of course).

Besides the dialogue you can show John in action. Does he point a finger at Mary. Does he throw a book? Does his face contort into a red mass of fury? You can also show how John feels about doing this. Maybe he is scared to stand up to Mary as he may be on the shy side and Mary is a forceful person. So maybe his yelling and actions show this.

Having said all this, it is okay to have some narrative which can include telling your story, showing what characters are like and what your Point of View character feels and thinks.

Just don’t tell when you can show. And never do both around dialogue.. Readers don’t like being insulted.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The next book in Sharon A. Crawford’s Beyond mystery series, Beyond Faith (published by Blue Denim Press will be out this fall 2017. Meantime, click on the Beyond book at the top of this post and get more info about Sharon and her Beyond books.

 

 

 

 

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