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Category Archives: Shane Joseph

Getting around the COVID-19 writing block for writers meetings

Logo designed by Lee Parpart

COVID-19 days and nights continue and so do a lot of changes. For those of you (writers and others) who think that we writers just write in isolation anyway and can continue to do so, think again.

Writing isn’t just about writing. You have to market your little written darlings to get published, and if a book, promote it.

Before all that you might want (and need) some feedback on your writing-in-the-works. And if you have been attending in-person writing groups, you just can’t do that anymore – or at least for nowthanks to COVID-19. And for me, to add insult to injury (pardon the cliché, but a cliché is well, normal in these definitely non-normal times), the writing group I founded and still run, East End Writers’ Group, is supposed to be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. We had lots scheduled and being prepared for this year.

A Writers Circle reading in person before

Then, thanks COVID-19, things were cancelled. Public venues were closed, including the libraries and we were meeting at the S. Walter Stewart library branch in Toronto since July 2014. Before that we were meeting for a few months in a used book store until it closed; before that in a café which closed too; before that for 17 years in my tiny bungalow. The latter is not an option now, especially with COVID-19 and doing the self-isolation bit until who knows when. Also, even without COVID-19, I don’t want meetings in my house anymore. Too much work.

My favourite meeting place – closed for now

So enter online.

Like many writing groups (and other groups, including my gardening club), we have zoomed into Zoom. I probably don’t need to tell anybody what this is, although how it works, is something else. Both my son, Martin (the IT guy) and a retired IT guy, Nick, who belongs to East End Writers’ Group suggested Zoom and although I haven’t too many clues about how it works (I’m improving with their help), I’m enthused about using Zoom and grateful they came up with the suggestion, and grateful that Nick is doing all the technical stuff to get the meetings going and creating the invitations for members. I am sending out the invitations, so not sitting on my laurels (cliché). So, I like to say, Nick hosts the session and I moderate it. In our two hours or so we have time for four members to each read a poem or two or a short prose excerpt and then after each author reads, it is my turn to lead a discussion and everybody else (and me, too) to give constructive feedback. At the end of our last Zoom meeting (we are meeting every two weeks) the diehards who stayed behind after all the feedback was finished, got into a discussion of how COVID-19 is affecting our writing. The consensus was it is causing us to be distracted and not get as much writing done as we would usually do.

As for the East End Writers’ 20th anniversary celebrations, that too has gone online. Earlier in May, novelist Shane Joseph, who is one of the EEWG’s original members and I were guests on Liquid Lunch on thatchannel the online TV station where I tape my Crime Beat Confidential Show. Liquid Lunch’s host, Hugh Reilly, interviewed Shane and I (remotely – he was in the studio and Shane and I were in our respective homes and coincidentally in our respective offices. Maybe some underlying wish that it will inspire our writing?) to tape the show. The episode is on You Tube now and also you can get to it via thatchannel. Shane and I talk about the early days of East End Writers’ Group. But pay attention to the last part and what we talk about. You can probably guess. Note: as we are isolated, we are not wearing masks, but Hugh is wearing his trademark toque.

 

Link to show is here. Scroll down and across.

And the link to my East End Writers’ Group is here.

So, I guess the message for writers is: don’t let COVID-19 get you down. Find a writers’ critique group online and KEEP WRITING. If you go to my Facebook author page, I post daily writing quotations on weekdays, from other writers, some well-known, some not, to inspire you and get you thinking and writing. Here is that link.

Stay safe, stay healthy and write and read.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Writing and reading nostalgia in traumatic times

It has been awhile since I posted. I am still here, but engulfed coping with all the changes with this coronavirus or  covid 19  pandemic as it is also called. One thing I have also been doing is writing and what I am writing is affected by this virus pandemic. Except for some Facebook postings and comments about the virus, I find what I am writing goes back to the past, before 2001.

This isn’t strange because it is common; it is soothing to go back to earlier times (even before you were born if you are writing historical fiction) when your life becomes a huge trauma with no answers for relief, no certainty. And everyone worldwide is in the same position.

Research does show the benefit of what they call “nostalagia”. See The Psychological
Benefits of Nostalgia

Although some writers are writing stories (fiction or nonfiction) about the pandemic, writing something set in the past can be uplifting. If I am writing more of my latest Beyond mystery in the works (Beyond Truth, working title), I get completely absorbed in the story and the characters. Some of you have read my past postings over the years where my main Beyond character PI Dana Bowman has shall we say, taken over the writing of the Beyond books.  At least, she claims she wrote the latest published one – Beyond Faith, but after a few “talkings” from me is now conceding maybe she co-wrote it. For more info on Dana Bowman and her connection to  see me my website Beyond Faith page.

But Dana is someone other than me and getting embroiled in her stories (and the other point of view characters in Beyond Truth) gets me into a better world, albeit fictional (or is it? Dana would say otherwise) than the one we live in now.

With fiction, the characters have problems, many traumatic, but it is fiction and in the end (as in end of the book), there is usually some sort of resolution.  This is true even with series books (yes,  I know I had a cliffhanger as part of the ending to Beyond Faith which picks up in Beyond Truth). This resolution, albeit it may not be all happy, is something we all need today. Fiction can do this. Whether you write fiction or read it or do both. Whether libraries and bookstores have temporarily had to close their bricks and mortar stores, you can “borrow” e-books online from many libraries, buy e-books and print books online at Amazon and elsewhere.

And having said that (warning: shameful self-promotion) here is the link to my Amazon profile

and from there my Beyond books in case you are interested.

For those with Kobo readers you can go to Kobu directly

or Chapters Indigo 

And here is a free takeaway. On my Facebook author page, for the past few months I have been posting daily (on weekdays) short words of wisdom for writers under the title Today’s Writing Quotation. I feature quotes from writers – well-known and otherwise, dead or alive, to help writers with their writing. The link to that author Facebook page is here.

So,  how are you writers and readers coping with the virus pandemic? Are you reading more? What are you reading? Are you writing more? What are you writing? Is it helping you to get through this dark night of the body, mind and soul? Let’s start a sharing conversation on this.

I will try to post herebriefly once a week.

Meantime, here is another story on the psychology of nostalgia.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Sharon

Pi Dana Bowman holding Beyond novels

 

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Book promo in person with a twist May 29

 

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Previously I blogged about using videos to get the word out about your book(s). Now, I’m going to talk about old school – well, only in the sense that it is an in-person presentation. But it is not only a reading or readings. A writer-friend once told me that authors reading more than five minutes can start to bore the audience. I suppose that does hinge on what and how the author is reading.

And this is not a lesson on how to read book excerpts in public. Maybe in another post…

My publisher, Blue Denim Press, has come up with a unique presentation setup that guarantees not to bore the audience. Here’s the blurb for it and below a bit more info.

Small Presses: Guerrilla Book Marketing in the Digital Age

Join the East End Writers’ Group for an evening with the Blue Denim Press Gang. Readings from Shane Joseph’s latest novel, Milltown, and Barb Nobel’s debut short story collection, Edgy People, with a duet by Sharon A. Crawford (Beyond Faith) and Michael Dyet (Hunting Muskie) featuring characters from their books. After a mix, mingle and snack break, join these authors and their publisher in a panel discussion on how the Small Press is filling the void in publishing today.. Hosted by Gail Murray.

I start the whole she-bang off with a short (promise) welcome to all including a brief (really) history of the East End Writers’ Group, then turn it all over to our real host, Gail Murray a poet and travel writer and longtime member of East End Writers’ Group. Gail will introduce each presenter, one by one.

Barb Nobel is up front to read a short funny excerpt from her short story collection Edgy People.

Michael Dyet and I are up next – we get a bit more serious except for one of my reading excerpts which is a bitchy fight between two women in Beyond Faith. Michael and I will be doing something we do in our War Between Genre Fiction and Literary Fiction presentation – taking on the roles of each other’s characters in our excerpts from our books – :”Slipstream,” from Michael’s short story collection Hunting Muskie and my mystery novel Beyond Faith. As with the “War” presentation, Michael gets to read a variety of characters. But we have a switcheroo in here. And there is a dog in my presentation – but he has no speaking parts, but he is there as he is important to our reading’; theme – relationships in families and all the things that they entail.

And no, Michael and I won’t be dressing up as any of our characters. But there are rumours circulating that a character from one of the books by one of us authors will make a surprise appearance.

The fourth author in the presentation, Shane Joseph will be reading from his latest novel (launched this spring) Milltown.

Then we are going to break for what has become a tradition of East End Writers’ Group gatherings – the networking snack break or mix and mingle and eat and perhaps buy some books. (the latter is not at all of our meetings). Hey, writers, readers and most everyone else likes to eat.

After the break, we four authors return to the stage and the table for a panel discussion that will hit on and expand the title of this presentation. Gail Murray will moderate and keep us in line if we get too chatty. There wil also be q and a as we want some audience participation.

And afterwards  – some more chatting with anyone from the audience who hangs around. Books still available for sale then, too.

And clean up and clear out.

And a thank you to the S, Walter Stewart library branch for hosting our East End Writers’ Group meetings and presentations.

Below are the location, time and date details and the covers of the books for the remaining two authors.

Location:

S. Walter Stewart Library branch

170 Memorial Park Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Time and Date:

6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

All welcome And did I say that admission is free?

See you there.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Book Review of Shane Joseph’s Crossing Limbo

Just finished reading Crossing Limbo by Shane Joseph and below is my review as posted on Goodreads.

Crossing Limbo

by Shane Joseph,

published by Morning Rain Publishing

available at Amazon

at Chapters Indigo

And at the Toronto book launch this Saturday, July 8, 3 to 5 p.m. at Supermarket Restaurant & Bar, 268 August Ave. (in Kensington Market), Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Guest author readings by Sharon A. Crawford and Michel Dyet from their upcoming new books

The book’s title Crossing Limbo says it all – the main character or characters in each of these 13 short stories by Shane Joseph are stuck in limbo in their lives. In Greek mythology, the dead were ferried to the underworld by a boatman named Charron, who demanded payment. In Crossing Limbo, the characters have to make some payment, some trade-off to get to the other side of their limbo. For some the trade-off hangs in the future; for others it is now. Usually their past is a big factor. Whatever happens, Shane Joseph makes it original, yet the outcome is logical based on the main characters’ traits – on a scale of mean and nasty to troubled. All the stories reflect many current issues –divorce, online chat, finding a mate at a certain age, big developers versus property owners, writers who never make it versus jaded bestselling authors, death in the family, to adult “children” still living at home with dad. And Joseph brings out the emotions these characters go through when trying to cross their personal limbo, so that the reader gets it, even with the despicable characters.

In one of my favourites, Waiting for the Train, there are two main characters, an old man and a teenage girl who meet at night on the railway tracks. Both, for various reasons, are contemplating suicide, but their meeting and listening to each other forces a twist in their lives.

Then there ls the egocentric Arvind, the title character in The Supreme Leader’s Big Day, who  puffs himself up, as if he is God of the small country of Kanjipoor. Arvind forms secret pacts with his ministers, and orders killings. He is also a sex maniac who takes 16-year-old concubines to bed. On the day of the story’s title, he is expecting certain things to happen. But he gets a big surprise.

Perhaps the best story is also the most unusual – Shock & Awe, reflecting society’s attachment to their pet dogs, which is told from a dog’s point of view. Shep, a former police dog who got a little too violent with a drug dealer, is literally put out to pasture, living on a former police deputy, Bob’s, family farm/ Besides early retirement, Shep deals with many other issues akin to the human ones, love for a neighbour – Buster, the dog next door, dealing with Bob’s death in Iraq. But when what’s left of her family are faced with losing their home, Shep follows true doggy feat, proving that even with crossing limbo, dogs are still (hu)man’s best friend.

And in a world peopled by some of Shane Joseph’s characters in Crossing Limbo, that is a good thing.

 

 

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