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Using bad life events in your writing

Pi Dana Bowman holds Beyond novels

When I was a journalist, often something happening in my life triggered a story idea. Not necessarily something personal in my life; it could have been something in my neighbourhood or  someone I knew or had just met. A big one was when I went through a few years of suffering from debilitating migraines. That one generated several stories published in several newspapers. The stories weren’t about me, but about migraines, headaches, and dealing with pain, including a story on the migraine sufferer who started The Migraine Foundation.

Fast forward to several years later when I am writing the Beyond mystery series. I made one of my re-occurring main characters, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding a migraine sufferer, who was the main character in a short story “The Headache Murders ” (Wordscape 5 Anthology, 1999 MTB Press), and also a main regular character in the first novel in the Beyond Series – Beyond Blood. It is the novel where my main character PI Dana Bowman meets Fielding when there is a weird Break and Enter at her house. Then her son is kidnapped and a murder is committed. You guessed it – Fielding comes down with a migraine and Dana, being Dana, tries to help Fielding in her in-your-face way. Here I use some of the tricks of the migraine suffering “trade”.

For me it was at a party at my house when I got a migraine. The stress of the party, coupled with dealing with a boarder co-organizing the party (and getting on my nerves). One of my friends sat me down in the kitchen, asked for a brown paper bag and told me to hold it over my nose and mouth and blow into it. as I recall, it didn’t completely get rid of the migraine.

But I thought it would work in Beyond Blood for Fielding and Dana to connect as they had started off getting on each other’s nerves (and continued and still continue to do so). I decided to put it in a bedroom scene – no, not what you are thinking. Dana and her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture are bunking overnight  in spare bedrooms at their next door neighbours’ house, because the twins’ house is a crime scene and they have to get out for now. The next morning Fielding bangs on Dana’s bedroom door to question her further and brings her a change of clothes that Constable Nivens (female cop) had gathered. Dana was still in her dress-up clothes from the reception opening for her and her brother’s Attic Investigative Agency the previous evening. Some of the conversation goes like this:

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 look around the room showed an ironing board piled high with clothes standing beside a chest of drawers. A basket of clothing sat in the only chair.:..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 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. (From Beyond Blood, copyright 2014,  Sharon A. Crawford, published 2014, Blue Denim Press)

You can see how this pans out – and based on personal experience as mentioned previously. And there is something else different about Fielding from your usual police officer characters.

He stutters. Also from my life, but not me – a classmate from grade school. Not to be disrespectful to my classmate, but it triggered another different character trait to use.

So, the take-away idea is: what can you take from your life to use in your short story or novel? Something a little different than falling down drunk or an argument – although those could be used with a twist.

One piece of advice for writers is to write about what you know. I prefer to use that as the bare basis and go from there. You may also find (particularly in non-fiction where you write fact, not fiction), you will become involved in a lot of research, including interviewing several sources. And in fiction, you may also need to go beyond your own experience as I had to in Beyond Faith when Dana is pushed down onto the cement and suffers a concussion.

And not I did not fall down on the cement or get someone to push me – although I have tripped over weeds and plants in my garden, and fallen down a few stairs – but those are for other stories.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The former migraine sufferer – real life

 

 

 

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Crime Beat Confidential Returns on thatchannel.com

PI Dana Bowman doing her thing on Crime Beat Confidential.

Crime Beat Confidential, the TV interview show I host on thatchannel.com has returned after a few months. Well, actually it is co-hosted by my main Beyond mystery series book character, the mouthy private investigator, Dana Bowman. The current show features our guest Marian Misters, who co-owns the Sleuth of Baker Street Bookstore.

Marian Misters in her bookstore

Despite the store’s name it is not located in London, England (or London, Ontario either) but in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And it is full of mystery books, a mystery reader’s haven. There are even shelves of books in the basement although it is the main floor’s selection that are for sale. The space is small, but Marian has managed to fit in a lot of books including newly published books..

Bookstores are important for authors, even with e-books. And especially a genre-specific store because…

If you think that all bookstores do is sell books, think again. Books are written by authors and readers want to meet their authors and vice-versa. And for some reason we (hey, I am also a big book reader, particularly mystery and memoir) like going to book launches – and not just our own. And it is not the wine and food, although that helps.

What better place for book launches or readings and the like than a bookstore? Not noisy and dark like a pub. I’ve had book launches in a pub when I could use a flashlight to see people and once on stage to present, the light are so bright when I peer into the audience I don’t see much – because it is dark there. The most embarrassing moment was when I re-connected with an old friend and I couldn’t make out his face so he had to introduce himself. I knew he was coming to the launch and I knew what he looked like now. Bad lighting.

And bookstore owners are very knowledgeable about their books and their authors. Readers can go in and browse to find something they want to read or have a specific book (or books) they want to get. Or ask the owner questions. Should a bookstore not have the book in they usually can order it in.

You can also order books online from Sleuth of Baker Street.  And if you want to know what’s going on with them and their authors you can get their free monthly e-newsletter called The Merchant of Menace.

Not sure if Sherlock Holmes visits Sleuth of Baker Street, but I bet his spirit hovers in the bookstore.

For info on Sleuth of Baker Street and the Merchant of Menace go to their website.

Or for the visual, watch that episode of Crime Beat Confidential here.

And let me know what you think.

Note: This post is a few days late as I was in meetings and working on editing client manuscripts late last week. But, after this post I will get back to  my every-other-week postings on Thursdays/Fridays.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

Sharon hosting Crime Beat Confidential

Two of Sharon’s Beyond mystery books

 

 

 

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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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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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Muskie and Murder engages audience

Michael and Sharon – Muskie and Murder presentation June 27. Shane Joseph photo.

Muskie and Murder with Michael Robert Dyet (Muskie) and me, Sharon A. Crawford (Murder) made its debut presentation last evening at S. Walter Stewart Library. It was my East End Writers’ Group’s second event for 2018. Although I was disappointed in the small number of people who attended (probably to inaccurate weather forecasts for torrential rain) those of us there were really engaged in the presentation. I’m not talking just Michael and I and our guest speaker, Shane Joseph (editor at Blue Denim Press – our publisher), but the whole audience of writers and readers.

There was a continual conversation going on among all of us and I think we learned a lot. I know I did.

Using four different set-ups, we were all looking at what Michael so aptly titled The War between Literary Fiction and Mystery Fiction. We discussed questions dealing with plot and characters in both and not only discovered there is both in both types of fiction, but we found out we all read more than one or the other. Margaret Atwood (she of Alias Grace and The Handmaidens Tale) and Stephen King (Pet Cemetery,The Shining, The Outsider) entered the conversation – at least their names and writings did. So did memoirs – another “M” area of writing. Perhaps we should add Memoir to future presentations?

Then Shane asked Michael and I questions on plot and characters and then he asked us how often do we write and do we write regularly.

Not as often or regularly as we would like. The other stuff of life (Michael’s day job, my teaching writing and editing, the garden, and house problems ), all took up necessary time. But there are a lot of other things in our lives that can be pruned or purged and some of what is still there can be manouvered somewhat.

Michael and I read parts from our books based on a theme (not telling what – we want to use it at more presentations).

And then it was skit time. Michael played Norah Watson from “Slipstream”, the novella in Hunting Muskie and I played PI Dana Bowman (although Dana might argue about the latter as she thinks she wrote Beyond Faith and is a separate person. Hmm.) Norah had reluctantly hired Dana to find a missing family member, but Norah and Dana are like oil and water.

You can imagine how that went. If not you’ll have to catch a Muskie and Murder presentation in the fall.

PI Dana Bowman and Norah Watson. Shane Joseph photo.

Meantime, this whole presentation, particularly what the writers and readers in the audience said, has inspired me to get back on my creative writing track. Not just writing book promo blurbs and the like, but my own M and M – Mystery and Memoir. I remembered that I used to always write at least two afternoons a week – Friday was sacrosanct for my creative writing, with Wednesday afternoon another one.

Earlier this year I started the fourth Beyond mystery book, started another rewrite of a black noir mystery short story, and returned to my memoir writing – both the book and some shorter pieces for possible magazine publication.

And anyone who dares interfere with my writing time, let’s just say it could mean “murder”.

Well, between the book covers.

Do you write regularly?

How do you do it?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The Mystery half of Muskie and Murder.

Michael and Sharon with Muskie and Murder. Shane Joseph photo.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Claiming my time to write, edit and teach writing

Ready to cut loose from pesky interruptions

Lately my writing time and time to do client work kept getting shoved to the back burner because of too many other things getting in the way. So, last week I started to just dive in and write and do the work clients have hired me to do. And push everything else to the back burner.

Isn’t quite working out that way. An unexpected heavy rainfall resulted in some water in the basement and I had to postpone a lunch meeting with a client because I was constantly mopping up. Usually I get a neighbour to check the basement for a few hours if heavy rainfall is forecast. This storm wasn’t until the last minute and I wasn’t going to call my neighbour at the last minute. I mean he is doing me a favour. So, in future I will be more diligent about weather.

And this week I am on a hard purge of what I do and whom I allow to take up my time.

So, out is the would-be landscaper who doesn’t listen to me. Apparently it didn’t sink in when I told him – four times – that I only could afford to pay him for one hour until the end of the month. He didn’t do that great a job of digging part of may garden anyway. The kicker was after I told him no more until the end of the month, he called me four times in an hour and a half (I checked the call display and didn’t answer and he didn’t leave a message). When he landed on my doorstep an hour later I told him off and sent him packing. But he still tried to get my by phone – texting – good luck with that on a land line.

And the self-published author I was introduced to via Linked In by a mutual friend. I had to postpone when we could “chat” (his words, which should have rung alarms in my mind if it wasn’t so cluttered). I did agree to meet him at an author reading/presentation I was at with other authors. We talked a bit, but I told him I was not available until after May 5 and we could meet then. So what does he do but start emailing me with what do I do questions. Excuse me, but this is something I do for a living and he is not a paying client. I ignored the emails and decided he could fend for himself.

Sounds harsh? Maybe. But it’s my writing time and my client work time.

I am also pulling back a bit (time-wise) this month in doing book promo for after June. Still doing some, but trying to work it in between the writing and client work instead of the other way around. That means less time on Facebook and other social media. And it also means cutting back on email time. So, I guess I will be setting the timer when I’m reading and answering email and on Facebook too.

But I’m still going to garden. I can dig my garden myself – always have. And so is spending time with family and friends.

How do you deal with pesky interruptions and other time-stealers that get in the way of your writing?

Comment, please?

Now back to client work.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mysteries.

The latest Beyond mystery. Click on it for more info

 

 

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Sisters in Crime Reading positive experience

Sharon beginning of SinC reading. E. Terri J. Dixon photo

I do love reading from Beyond Faith. It gives me a chance to show readers what my characters have to contend with (besides the main character, PI Dana Bowman). Last Thursday, I joined 10 other Sisters in Crime (well, one brother, author Ken Ogilvie) Toronto for their monthly gathering for an evening of reading from our newest books. And was it interesting – all that crime and so many variations, so many voices, so many stories, and so many photographs, thanks to SinC Treasurer, Terry Dixon.

Location! Location! It isn’t just for selling and buying real estate. We were in a library – all those books, albeit we were upstairs in one of the program rooms. To me it was especially good, as Beyond Faith is on order for three copies for the Toronto Public Library system. The other two, Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood are already in the Toronto Public Library (and in other libraries in other cities and towns, too).

And this time I kept Ms. Dana Bowman, Private Investigator, firmly between the book covers, although I did hold up an enlarged photo of her at the beginning and ask the audience if they had seen her and if so, to shove her  back in the book.

We authors also had a table to sell our books and I sold a few Beyond Faith copies, including one just as I was setting them up on the side of the table before the readings. That might also be “location, location”. And we also received Sisters in Crime Toronto Chapter mugs – red print (what else in colour for mystery authors?) on white. Now, that’s my coffee mug to start each day – gotta get into the mood for committing crime – between the book covers, of course.

Here’s some more info on Sisters in Crime Toronto. Members also include readers – the mystery author’s biggest fan.

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford

Sharon reads from Beyond Faith at SinC. E. Terri J. Dixon photo

 

And the book.

Beyond Faith with Dana Bowman firmly inside

 

 

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