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Category Archives: Sharon A. Crawford

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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Using Humour in Fiction

Mysteries, thrillers and horror fiction can be very grim. Some authors (including me) add a little humour to lighten the load a little. But there are a few things to consider if you want to use humour in your fiction. (Note: I’m using the Canadian spelling of  “humour” because I am Canadian).

First, a big  no-no:

Don’t have your character or characters crack a lot of jokes. This isn’t stand-up comedy or a comedy TV series. There could be one exception to this – if a trait of one of your characters is to tell jokes – bad or otherwise and it fits in with the plot and this character’s interaction with other characters. But use it sparingly or not at all. It is not the best technique.

Some techniques that can work:

Your main character is a klutz. Picture a klutzy private investigator or cop or? This can bring up several scenarios that can lighten your story. It can also provide some problems for your character in their investigation. For example, your PI is snooping outside a house where nobody is home at the moment. Or maybe he or she gets into the house to look around. Instead of the family dog barking at them or charging at them, why not have the kluzy PI trip over a sleeping cat and fall down a few stairs – or how about a whole menagerie of animals – maybe he or she collides with a snake that has gotten loose from its cage? And the PI is terrified of snakes.

Or give your PI or cop, what we call a character tag and use that to create some humour as the character does what he or shee normally do. In my Beyond books, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding stutters – not with work-related things, but with personal things that make him nervous – such as his attraction to PI Dana Bowman. He also suffers from migraines. In one scene in Beyond Blood, Fielding knocks on the door of the bedroom Dana had to sleep in overnight – not at her place as a murder and kidnapping took place there and her home is a crime scene,so Dana and her fraternal twin PI  Bast Overture are staying at a neighbour’s next door. Here’s a short excerpt from Beyond Blood with the encounter the next morning between Dana and Fielding.

Beyond Book No. 2

The pounding came from the bedroom door.

“M … M … Ms. Bowman,” Fielding said from outside the door.

Couldn’t the man give me a little privacy? I pushed the covers off and realized I was in a strange bed and still wore my party dress. Red for blood. Red. Cut it out, Dana.

“What the hell do you want, Fielding?”

“Are you d … d … decent?”

“What?” I scratched my head and yawned.

“Ms. Bowman. I need to talk to you.”

“So talk.”

“I h … h … have a ch … ch … change of clothes for you.”

“What?” I leaped out of bed, ran to the door and pulled it open.

Fielding leaned against the wall. His face resembled whitewash and red rivers flowed through his eyes. He held a plastic bag, which he slid over my way.

“Your ch … ch … change of clothes. C … Constable Nivens collected them.”

“Thanks.” I grabbed the bag. “You look like hell. No sleep?”

“Just a migraine. I get them all the time. It’ll pass.”

“Migraine. Here, come in and sit down on …” A quick glanced around the room showed an ironing board piled high with clothes standing beside a chest of drawers. A basket of clothing sat in the room’s only chair. “… on the bed.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“No, it isn’t. Migraines are awful. My mother used to get them, but thankfully I don’t. She used to blow in a paper bag, to get rid of the pain, I mean. Maybe there’s one here.” I started rummaging in the dresser drawers.

“Ms. B … B … Bowman. It’s all right.”

“Here we are.” I shook a scarf from a Fashion Shoppe bag and shoved the bag at Fielding. He ignored it. “Put it over your face and blow.”

He stared at me, for once speechless, took a deep breath and sputtered.

“Take the damn bag and blow. And go and sit down. I don’t want to have to deal with a cop passing out in a bedroom.”

A little colour hit his face for a second. He staggered over to the bed, plunked down on the edge, leaned over and blew. I moved towards the doorway, stopped and swung around.

“Look, Fielding, I’m sorry. Guess we’re all a little edgy.” I sat on the bed beside him and touched his forehead. He flinched and pulled away. “Sorry. Do you want a glass of water?”

“W … w … wait. It’s the kid. I m … m … mean your son. I have a daughter.”

“I know. You told me earlier.”

“Well, I want you to know, Ms. Bowman.”

“Dana.”

“D … Dana, that I’ll do my best to get your son back safe and sound.”

“I know that, Fielding.”

“Don.”

“What?”

“M … my name is Don.”

“Okay, Don. Anyway, you have two private detectives in the house to help you out.”

“Now, listen here, Ms. Bowman. You let the police handle this. Your job is to answer your cell phone if it rings, so we know what the kidnappers want. Nothing else.” He pointed his forefinger under my nose. (Copyright Sharon A. Crawford, From Beyond Blood, Blue Denim Press, 2014).

As you can see,  there is enough for the reader to visualize – especially a burly cop blowing into a brown bag.  hey are in close quarters and both characters are uncomfortable. But it is only a moment before the two characters return to “business”. But what else does the encounter tell you about the characters and the story?

In my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point, some of my stories are noir and satire, one in particular – The Body in the Trunk, which has an unusual take on two friends trying to move a body to… well, that would be giving it away. You have to read it to get it.

And that’s my last suggestion. Read published novels  containing humour in the genre you are writing in. Three authors who do it so well are:

Melodie Campbell with her Goddaughter  series. The Toronto Sun calls her “Canada’s Queen of Comedy”.

Steve Shrott (who also teaches humour writing) with his stand-alone mysteries. One features a dentist who is a part-time PI and another features an actor whose main roles have been dead bodies.

Janet Evanovitch and her  mysteries. Her bail bonds character, Stephanie Plum, is forever getting into scrapes, especially with the two fellows who like her.

See how these authors work their humour to fit their characters and their plots.

Happy reading, especially over the Christmas season.

Have a good holiday.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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Can Point of View help Character Development?

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

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

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

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

How can POV help you see and develop your characters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford

 

 

 

 

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Authors’ Book presentation this week

The third Beyond mystery (2017)

An author’s book promo never ends. But that is a good thing. Besides the obvious, a chance to sell copies of our books, it is also a chance to do a number of interesting things and meet some of our readers.

So, why the collective “we”? Because for this first of two events this week, there ARE two of us authors presenting – the other author being Michael Dyet, author of the literary short story collection Hunting Muskie. So where do literary fiction and mystery fiction intersect? Or do they? In our presentation, Michael and I try to answer that question – with help from our audience. Here are the details:

Is there murder in literary fiction and character depth in mystery fiction? Join Michael Robert Dyet, author of the literary short story collection “Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage” and Sharon A. Crawford, author of the mystery novel “Beyond Faith” for a lively discussion, rapid-fire questions, readings, audience participation, skit with story characters. Books available to see and sell.

Annette Street Public Library presentation:

Date and Time:   Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Location:   Annette Street Public Library Branch

145 Annette Street, Toronto, Ontario

Website info

Free. Open to the public

Hope some of. you can make it.

As for that second event this week, stay tuned to my Thursday posting on this blog.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

 

 

 

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Crime Beat Confidential features Nate Hendley

Nate Hendley true crime writer

Recently taped Episode 2 of Crime Beat Confidential my TV show on thatchannel.com. My guest was Nate Hendley, a true crime writer whose latest book The Boy on the Bicycle is creating a lot of buzz. The book is about a little known (until now) miscarriage of justice in the mid-1950s in Toronto the (supposedly) Good. A then 14-year old teen, Ron Moffat was wrongly accused of murdering a seven-year-old boy, arrested, tried in court, found guilty and spent some time in jail before the real killer (a serial killer) was found. Now Ron joins Nate for their public presentations, including the book launch.

I met Ron at the book launch. Ron is a gentle soul who has been through a lot but he has come through on the other side of a dark tunnel. You need to read his story as told by Nate. Here is a link to Nate’s current blog post on it.

And below is a direct link to the Crime Beat Confidential TV segment on it. Private Investigator Dana Bowman, the main character in my Beyond mystery series , as usual introduces the segment, but she gets serious for a change. She is a mother, so…

I do the actual interview. You will learn a lot from Nate in this TV segment.

Dana Bowman does the Crime Beat Confidential into

 

Sharon hosting Crime Beat Confidential

 

 

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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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Time Management for Writers – a new take?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not getting enough sleep at night, mainly because…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or should that be the low road?

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

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

Happy writing.

Cheers.

Sharon

The latest Beyond mystery.

 

 

 

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